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Criterion Release of MISHIMA (1985) DVD Postponed

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 03, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


The Criterion Collection, the best in restoring and packaging obscure films, has postponed the release of the Paul Schrader masterpiece Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (#432, 1985). It was originally slated for June 17th, but will now be released on July 1st. The reason for this could be so the Director-approved 2-disc special edition can coincide with another Criterion release Patriotism (#433, 1966), a 29-minute film directed by and starring Yukio Mishima.

mishimaMishima is one of my favorite films of all time right behind Terrance Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). It is one of the most strangest and artistically appropriate biopics about a deeply-complex and passionate man. Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata, The Pillow Book, 1996), a quiet novelist and arguably insane radical who wrote dozens of stories about struggle, beauty, sexuality, love, suicide, and the importance of an artistic statement. He later formed a personal army in pursuit of more tradition livelihood in Tokyo.

Three of his most renowned stories The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (1956), Kyoko’s House (1959) and Runaway Horses (1968) were shot in rich, gorgeous color on eye-popping theatrical sets by Eiko Ishioka that compliment the black-and-white scenes chronicling the writer’s past. They are the best filmed expressions of the writing process matched by Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002). These passages of past and fiction all lead up to Mishima’s last day, shot like a documentary in color, when he committed a rehearsed act of seppuku – a form of ritualistic samurai suicide – in the headquarters of Japan Self-Defense Forces.

MISHIMA (1985) Trailer

At the 1985 Cannes Film Festival, the film’s cinematographer John Bailey (The Anniversary Party, 2001), composer Philip Glass (A Brief History of Time, 1991), and costume/set designer Eiko Ishioka (The Fall, 2008) won the well deserved Best Artistic Contribution. Director Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi DriverAffliction (1998) has recognized Mishima as his best work. (1976) and director of Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas co-produced it knowing that the financial venture wold not be profitable because mainstream audience would not embrace it despite critical acclaim. Luckily for those who appreciate challenging and expertly-made films, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters can be experienced because it exists.

Warner Bros Home Video released a DVD of Mishima on August 2001 that included a director’s audio commentary. It is currently out of print.

A New Sunrise for MISHIMA (1985)


The Criterion release will sport a new, restored high-definition digital transfer of the director’s cut which was supervised and approved by director Paul Schrader and cinematographer John Bailey. The changes of the director’s cut include a deleted scene featuring Chishu Ryu, a favored actor of Yasujiro Ozu (Floating Weeds, 1959). For Ozu fanatics, you can read a Sight and Sound article by Ryu on the director here. Another change to film is a digital replacement of a blue skyline with a blood red one in the Runaway Horses segment because Schrader wanted it look artificially in sync with the rest of the story visually. Optional English and Japanese voice-over narrations will also be provided; the former by Roy Scheider (“We’re goin’ to need a bigger boat.”), the latter by Ken Ogata.

New special features include: an audio commentary featuring Schrader and producer Alan Poul – the one featured in the original Warner release will not be included.

mishima11There will be new video interviews with Bailey, producers Tom Luddy and Mata Yamamoto, composer Philip Glass, and production designer Eiko Ishioka. Mishima biographer John Nathan and friend Donald Richie will also have video interviews. A new audio interview with the co-screenwriter Chieko Schrader who wrote the Japanese dialogue was the wife of Leonard Schrader who also wrote for Mishima as well. Another video interview excerpt will feature Mishima talking about writing.

Also included is The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima, a 55-minute BBC documentary about the author, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring a new essay by critic Kevin Jackson, a piece on the film’s censorship in Japan, and photographs of Ishioka’s sets.

One of the Best Sequences in MISHIMA (1985)

Available separately on the same date is Yukio Mishima’s Patriotism, which foreshadowed his death playing an officer who commits seppuku. The original film was thought to be destroyed by Japanese authorities shortly after Mishima’s death, seen as a plight upon the nation. Fortunately, the original negative was saved and has resurfaced 35 years later.

patriotismThe DVD will be restored in a high-definition digital transfer of both the Japanese and English versions, with optional Japanese or English subtitles. Special features include a 45-minute audio recording of Yukio Mishima speaking to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Japan; a 45-minute making-of documentary, featuring crew from the film’s production; interview excerpts featuring Mishima discussing war and death; new and improved English subtitle translation, and a new essay by renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns, Mishima’s original short story, and Mishima’s extensive notes on the film’s production.

I’ll be picking them both up July 1st.

Fire at the Univerisal Studios Lot

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 01, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

universalEarly Sunday morning, a fire broke out at the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles, California. The L.A. Fire Department has released over 300 firefighters to contain it, three of which have been reported injured. The King Kong Exhibit at the Universal Theme Park is badly damaged. The Park was closed for the whole day, leaving over 20,000 visitors locked out. Buildings were left hollowed and gutted by the raging inferno. Several of the original sets for renowned movies such as the courthouse exterior from Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985) have been destroyed as well as the sets for the Clint Eastwood film The Changeling (2008), which debuted at Cannes early last month.

A video of the disaster can be seen at the Florida Local 10 website.

This tragedy caused by force of nature brings to mind the sad 2006 ruination of Nick Park’s Aardman Studios that burned down its sets, props, and painstakingly hand-done clay models for the wonderful Wallace and Gromit (1989 – 2002) short films and Chicken Run (2000).

Universal Pictures’ most valued video archive has been scathed. Also burnt to the ground was a warehouse containing vaults of over 40,000 original and master versions of old Universal films. There is a great and crucial blessing that the original negatives of Universal’s history of film was located far away from the erupting fire. The damaged video stock can be replaced. The cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, but a faulty electrical error by a working sound stage for a commercial shoot over the weekend is suspect.

NBC Universal President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer was reported saying that “We have duplicates of everything. Nothing is lost forever.” Thankfully a number of sets including the back lot used for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Norman Bates’ house, is still standing. Millions of dollars have been lost, but not many people were hurt. This is the second of two massive fires at the studio within the last two decades, the first was caused by arson in 1990.

CHOKE Trailer

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 29, 2008 • 2 Comments


Get ready for a Palahniuk Punch. After the subversive head bunt of the David Fincher cinematic satire, Fight Club (1999), a new adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Choke is coming to theaters this Fall. First time writer-director of Choke, winner of the Sundance Special Jury Price, is character actor Clark Gregg from David Mamet’s Spartan (2004), and the wonderful Nicole Holofcener comedy-drama Lovely and Amazing (2001), which stars Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener and love-goddess Emily Mortimer.

Choke looks like a very dark comedy this side of Neil Labute’s In The Company of Men (1997) stars Sam Rockwell (Joshua, 2007) as a dysfunctional sex addict trying to find his place in the world and in his mother’s physician (Kelly Macdonald, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, 2006). Anjelica Huston (The Darjeeling Limited, 2007) plays mom who must be so proud! I hope this angry satire takes aim at all the right targets… and hits hard.


Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 28, 2008 • 1 Comment


Old Man Jones is whipping up a storm!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) is the best Indy movie after the blessed original. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have taken the whip-snapping archaeologist out for a fourth time while retaining some of the most crucial elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) that without tarnished the past two sequels. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not a perfect movie. Far from it. There are quibbles galore, but it didn’t stop me from grinning throughout this popcorn entertainment. The fourth exceeding the original is impossible. Raiders is perfect.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), after twenty-seven years is still the best example of a character-driven action motion picture. There are no wasted moments and the exposition is told briskly so the adrenaline rush isn’t tempered. More importantly, the characters were larger than life, capable of nuance, and worth caring about. Watching Raiders in a revival theater last year was an uplifting experience. Spielberg and Lucas made the movie, one they personally would have liked to have seen, with great zeal and, more importantly, selfishness. Like a hyper-imaginative kid, he invented one exhilarating sequence after another and clocked in five minutes shy of two hours. When initially released, Raiders saved Hollywood at a time when ticket sales ebbed to a devastating low.

I approached the fourth one with trepidation after recalling how the sequels treated the fedora man so shamefully. “Docta Jones” anyone? Thankfully the fourth adventure is a hardy throwback that mostly succeeds in integrating the dashing 1930s rouge into the 1950s. The Indiana Jones saga now explores that decades’ hang ups: conspiracy theories, commies, and the stuff science-fiction magazines reveled in. Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, now in his fifties, is at a point in his life one of colleagues, Dean Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent, Hot Fuzz, 2007), refers to as “where (it) stops giving you things and starts taking them away.” CONTINUE READING ►

Obituary: Sydney Pollock (1934-2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • May 26, 2008 • 1 Comment


This evening it was announced that Hollywood maverick Sydney Pollack died from cancer at his home in Pacific Palisades. At 73, he is survived by his wife of 50 years, Claire Griswold, and daughters, Rachel and Rebecca. Steven, Pollock’s son, died 1993 in an airplane crash. Pollock served on the boards of KCET, public broadcasting of Los Angeles, and the Motion Picture Television Fund. He was also a founding member of the Sundance Institute and the Chairman Emeritus of the American Cinematheque.

pollock2Working around the camera as a film director, producer, and actor over the past 30 years, he has earned 46 Academy Award nominations. He was the Chief Executive Officer of Mirage Enterprises which also produced his films. His directorial resume includes Tootsie (1982), a comedy where Dustin Hoffman disguises as a woman to get acting gigs, Out of Africa (1985 – winning the Best Director and Best Picture Academy Awards) a romantic drama with Meryl Streep opposite Robert Redford, Sabrina (1995), a remake of the 1954 rom-com staring Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, and Greg Kinnear, and the documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005) about the fanciful architect’s working method.

As an actor, he has delivered thoughtful performances usually playing very knowing and cynical men who wield great power. He shined in films like his own Tootsie, Robert Altman’s The Player (1992) Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives (1992), Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes (2002) and Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton. Many of them he had produced. He also played Warren Feldman in the HBO series The Sopranos.

Sydney Pollock in “Tootsie”

Pollock died in the middle of his production The Reader, directed by Stephen Daldry, which is based on the excellent Bernhard Schlink novel (read by me) about a young man (David Kross, Adam and Eva, 2003) who discovers his past lover (Kate Winslet, Little Children, 2006), a thirtyish woman when he was 15 years old, is linked with Nazi crimes during the Holocaust.

Pollock once reflected about his work by saying, “I don’t value a film I’ve enjoyed making. If it’s good, it’s damned hard work.”