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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

PATRIOTISM (1966)

Four years before committing seppuku after attempting a pitifully under-organized amateur military coup, Japanese writer/provocateur Yukio Mishima staged a film version of a remarkably similar incident in the stylized tradition of a Noh drama. The film, long suppressed in Japan, has undeniable voyeuristic allure embedded in its 27 minute running time, but it can’t rise above Mishima’s narcissistic, masochistic fetishism that’s all but impenetrable to non-Japanese. And, no doubt, to many Japanese. Mishima hardly helps things by using a scratchy record of orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE as the main soundtrack to what is essentially a silent three-reeler. The disparity in culture is but nothing compared to the disparity in artistic achievement. Still, there is a brief cinematic epiphany when the wife joins her husband in death and the b&w film stock reverses image turning the expected blood splatter from black on white into white on black. A simple, but elegantly effective touch and far preferable to the gruesome, not to say, gaudy treatment of the officer’s disembowelment. Apparently, things did not go quite so smoothly on 11/25/70.

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