Tomorrow night, at the Indiana University Cinema in Bloomington, Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters will play as part of a brief series devoted to musician, activist, and director Boots Riley and some of the films that served as guiding lights while making his acclaimed debut feature, Sorry to Bother You. Riley—who has cited Mishima as an important influence in making his off-the-wall dystopia—will be in attendance for the screening.
A mesmeric portrait of prolific Japanese author Yukio Mishima (Ken Ogata), Schrader’s 1985 feature weaves the final moments before its subject’s ritual suicide, flashbacks from his past, and scenes from his fictions into an intricate study of the intersection of art, politics, and self-destruction. And it was the sheer visual splendor of the film, shot by John Bailey and featuring sets and costumes by Eiko Ishioka, that inspired Riley to conceive some of Sorry’s most extravagant flourishes, including the depiction of his telemarketer protagonist’s promotion to the company’s mysterious top floor. As the director explained earlier this year to Film Comment, “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters inspired me when I was thinking up the golden elevator that allows [Lakeith Stanfield’s] character to ascend to the upper ranks of the company, particularly that Temple of the Golden Pavilion, where the character is drawn almost hypnotically to where they’re doing the play of Mishima’s work.”