31 May 2009

Bury My Heart at Hoffs/Drawlar Funeral Parlor

My great friend Lorin has a podcast, and on the latest edition, his co-host, Fritz, said the following: "I try talking to people about 'Lost,' what's going on in Season 5...there is always going to be someone in the room that's only on Season 2 or hasn't seen it." He is, of course, one hundred percent correct. One of the problems with "Lost" is that there are so many people catching up on it, and this show, more so than most others, requires a minimum of spoilers before venturing into new territory, and so veterans must be careful when discussing it in public. Therefore, I advise all those who are not caught up on "Lost" to stop reading, and to immediately begin watching whatever they need to watch to catch up, so they can sit in front of the television in January 2010 and follow along with the rest of us. THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL WARNING.

It will be worth it.

For the rest of you...

It is difficult for me to put into summation how much I fucking love "Lost." Let us just say that, like most other fans, I fucking love it. A lot. I am a "Lost" fan and a "Lost" nerd, and when it is operating on all cylinders, it is one of those events where I begin to doubt my ability to enjoy other forms of entertainment. It's one of those feelings I remember experiencing most acutely after finishing the fourth book in The Dark Tower series (an influence on "Lost"), Wizard and Glass. I can easily recall the moment where I closed the book and thought "There's nothing else out there. This is my world, I live it now, and I must fucking know what happens next." It wasn't a book I fell in love with, and it's not one of my favorites, and yet while reading it, the spell was cast, and I was enmeshed entirely within its universe. When it was all over, it was a day or two before I was able to shake off its world and move on to other things. I was able to move on, enough, in fact, to more or less ignore the next book in the series when it came out until I happened to stumble across it in the "reading library" of my main school post in Japan.

With "Lost," however, we don't have the same ability to ignore the follow ups. Books have not (yet?) reached the point where, upon their publication, everyone is talking about them, and Twittering plot points, and creating Facebook quizzes about them. Only the Harry Potter series has truly approached that point, and perhaps, maybe, the Twilight series, but who really gives a rat's fuck about that poorly written collection of inane tripe? No, with "Lost," when an episode comes out, if you're not caught up, you have to shut yourself up into a veritable media cocoon. During Season 5, I would discuss episodes with a couple of my coworkers, while noticing that a third, who was not caught up, would don his earplugs and try to concentrate on something else while we talked about the latest bit of mindfuckery.

I watched the first three seasons of "Lost" on DVD, and after the finale of the Third Season, probably one of the greatest moments in all of televison history, I knew I could not wait any longer for subsequent seasons to be released before watching them. I knew I had to start watching them right then and there, when they aired, just so I could join the conversation, and so I would not have to wait to find out "WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE?!" It took some adjusting. I had to learn to tolerate the constant and frequent commercial breaks, and had to accept the waiting period between episodes, which, at the very least, was a week. But oh sweet Lord, was it worth it.

I even learned to embrace the commercial breaks. I am now faced with seven months of not having to see promos for execrable ABC programming, whether it is the latest "Grey's Anatomy" where a four-year-old has shot her father into so much Swiss cheese or the summer programming phenom "Wipeout," which had to create CGI promos for what is, essentially, a reality game show, which just makes me feel tired somehow. At least it's not "Eli Stone," RIP.

So while we're in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad time between "Lost" seasons, we're left with the exercise of having to guess and predict what the hell will happen next in that far off date of January 2010. And those predicitions really hinge on one question:

Did the time travelers' actions affect the timeline?

There are two ways to answer this, and within those answers, a great many subsequent questions and answers. But to begin, let's consider the answer I think is false: NO.

If the answer is "no," and the detonation of the thermonuclear device was truly the original "incident," and all known "Lost" history extends from that moment, then where does that leave us in January 2010? Watching Jack wake up again, and running out onto the beach in the aftermath of the crash, and doing the exact same things he did the first time around. Because that will mean that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 are caught in a time loop and don't know it, and they keep repeating the same actions that will lead them right back into that time loop, and things just keep repeating themselves ad nauseum. Which is possible, of course, but as far as television goes? Boring as fuck. It's not happening.

Therefore, I think the correct answer is: YES.

But that doesn't mean that the survivors AREN'T caught in a time loop. Perhaps they were, and they kept repeating the same things, but the detonation of the device did, truly, change everything. This seems like the true response because when you forget about the world of "Lost" and think about the world of how "Lost" is created, the production factors and what not. This makes you realize that the producers are more than likely not going to get Dominic Monaghan to return to the show because the past repeats itself, nor Maggie Grace nor Ian Somerhalder nor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje nor all those other actors who have died themselves off.

So: the bomb changed things. Now we must wonder where the 1977 characters end up. As I see it, there are three possibilities:

1. The initial 815 crash, but changed
2. The moments where Jacob visited and touched them (those he did touch)
3. 2007, right after fake-Locke kicks Jacob into the flammable flames

Reading back these possiblities, I pause, and consider that there may (must) be other options I have no hope of considering. Mostly because of the bodies in the cave. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have stated that the bodies will be proof to future generations watching "Lost" for the first time that, in fact, the creative team did have an idea of where all this will be going. Which means that at some point in the forthcoming season, at least two characters (probably a male or female) will have to be in the past and live and die before the Oceanic Flight 815 survivors ever end up there.

Well...I will consider those three options up above anyway. Because I love doing so. And hopefully it will give more food for thought.

1. I don't think our heroes will end up at this point, mostly because, again, of production factors. A good many of the characters who were here in the Pilot are now dead and gone, or grown up, and a television show cannot so easily resurrect that many characters. It is possible, though, that all those characters who died will end up being dead in the crash, and the survivors will only be those who were meant to be survivors, i.e., Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Jin, Sun, etc.

2. Jacob touched most everybody he visited in the past, and that must be significant in some way. EW's Doc Jensen suggested that Jacob's touching of each person created, in Harry Potter terms, a horcrux, and that after the detonation, each person will return to whatever moment Jacob touched them at still possessing their knowledge of the future. They will, therefore, be able to alter their forward path and change things as necessary....

I don't think that will happen, though, and again, it's a production factor for me. Consider witnessing all those people jump into their past lives that suddenly, and ask yourself how are we going to watch so many disparate lives cohere into a single thematic whole, whilst also remaining under budget? Ay, there's the rub. If every week they have to have a separate young-Sawyer, young-Kate, young-whoever storyline? No way.

3. I consider this the most likely action, because of Jacob's final words ("They're coming") and because it would be fucking awesome. All these people chillaxing outside the foot, and then WHAM - Oceanic 815 motherfuckers causing some serious mindbending. But other things would also have to have changed - it would, after all, be an alternate future. So if, in 1977, they make it so their plane never crashed, and yet the important parts of Oceanic 815 are sill on the island in 2007, how did they get there, and why?

....Sigh....I wouldn't have these questions if the season finale had just given me a little taste, a wetting of the beak, of what would go on in Season 6. It wouldn't be hard: rather than the white-out to the "Lost" logo, they could have cut to a scene of whatever comes next - maybe the 815 on a beach, or Jack waking up, or...whatever. It wouldn't have lasted long, it just would have been those few precious quiet moments of what is next, a minute, or even a few seconds is all we would need, and then the stark cut to the logo.

Fuck...that just makes it what it is, doesn't it? Well, here's to 2010. May we all survive that far into the future.

27 May 2009

"The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living."

This past Sunday I plopped my fat ass down for three and a half hours to watch Reds, Warren Beatty's epic staging of the romance between American Communist John Reed and his wife, Louise Bryant. It was exactly the type of film I love - a whomping historical saga with cluttered, lived-in sets and thousands of outfitted roving extras, a large film that's still able to take its time building the relationships between the main characters and allowing the quiet moments some breathing room.

It's not perfect, no. Beatty and his co-star, Diane Keaton, are too old for their roles, and Jack Nicholson as Eugene O'Neill steals the whole show from them, despite his much smaller amount of screen time. He's actually acting here, by God, something you don't much see in ol' Jack anymore, not since he had the man who performed in About Schmidt taken out back and shot. One of Beatty's more brilliant choices, the periodic intercutting of the narrative with interviews and voiceovers from actual ancient people who were alive at the same time as John Reed and knew him, somewhat undercuts the staged scenes (that is, the bulk of the movie). Actual non-actors discussing these events can't help but somewhat deflate the pomp of Beatty and Keaton's acting, no matter how natural and believeable they are (and I did like them, despite the "too old" thing).

But I don't really want to talk about Reds. Rather, I'm more interested in thinking about how some films just seem better at recreating the past, particularly those of the 1970s and early 1980s. Not coincidentally, many of these films are considered classics today, and are some of my favorites: The Godfather I and II (especially the young Vito scenes), Chinatown, Reds, Raging Bull, The Yakuza Papers, Das Boot, Days of Heaven, and others that seem possessed by a naturalness and an attention to detail that doesn't come at the expense of the actors or the story. They manage the feat of making us believe that we are not watching a movie that happens to take place in a certain era, but that we are watching found footage from that era.

Before I go any further, it must be said that yes, I acknowledge that these films are just as phony in their recreations of the past as, say, Pearl Harbor or Young Einstein or "That '70s Show." It's really just an elaborate trick they're pulling on the viewer, and there are other great movies that don't specify their era, or seem to take place in multiple eras, or even prefer to dwell in the film-versions of those eras, rather than the actual eras. Films like those of Sergio Leone or the Coen Brothers.



Part of me wants to think that films like Reds and The Godfather recreate the past better because they are closer to those time periods than we are today. They were made before cell phones and the Internet and cable television changed our lifestyles, and so they could immerse themselves more fully in a bygone time. But that's not really true, is it? Because if you look hard enough, films are still being made today that give off that "realistic past" feeling. Four of them that spring immediately to mind are Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Zodiac, Max, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

So how do filmmakers do it? How do they trick us into believing that one recreation of the past is inherently better than another? In my mind, it all goes back to the very basic building blocks that make up great cinema: a compelling story and characters brought to life by thoughtful writers, actors, and directors who have all done their research. The characters in these films aren't historical stereotypes - there are no Gray Flannel Suits or Stoner Hippies or anyone saying "Groovy" or wearing fucking Flock of Seagulls haircuts. They are not identified by their place in time, but by who they are.

Also, the historical events the characters live through are not overly foreshadowed or trumpeted, and they are not turned into HISTORICAL EVENTS. For example, compare the way the overthrow of Batista is handled in The Godfather Part II (Uh-oh, there go our Cuba plans. Hey, where did Fredo go?) to just about anything in NBC's justifiably forgotten miniseries "The '60s" (I'm joining the Marines...TO SERVE IN VIETNAM!!!!!). Great films allow their historical moments to play out as people lived them (or as close as movies can get). Shitty films put exclamation points on the smallest historical details. Hell, "The '60s" even made a relatively minor moment like Dylan's plugging-in (face it) into some sort of monumental event that CHANGED FUCKING EVERYTHING, even the way you live your shitty life, maaaannnn....

Worse yet, they'll throw in small and pointless jokes or references that, at best, momentarily jar the audience out of their warm suspension-of-disbelief cocoon or, at worst, ruin the momentum of the story. Here's an example: Titanic's groanable "Picasso? He won't amount to a thing" and "Do you know of Dr. Freud?" lines. Hey, why don't you just mention how your old friends the Archduke and his wife are so excited about their trip to Sarajevo, and how you hope that rude young Mr. Hitler manages to sort his life out and stops causing trouble? (By the way, Max gets away with that sort of thing because it's specifically about Hitler.) I feel like there have been a million similar lines about Woodstock, but I'm not in the mood to look them up. I've dragged this out long enough.

These things may seem small, but when they play out onscreen, they become big (not to mention all those months of production it takes to create them). I wanted to leave you with two scenes for comparison, but I couldn't find any off YouTube that suited my needs. So I'm afraid you'll just have to use your imaginations. Sorry.

21 May 2009

The Last Time We Met

The Last Time We Met is now available for viewing on YouTube! Watch it now!

I'll wait...

So here's the status thus far: Chris and I are trying to get as many hits as possible on the film's YouTube page. Why? No particular reason; the hits count for nothing when it comes to parceling out awards, and once all is said and done, we'll be reposting an official version (the directors' cut?) with actual credits. I suppose it's just stubborn pride.

One thing I'd like to discuss is the different interpretations we've heard about The Last Time We Met. Before I begin, let's get the namby-pamby stuff out of the way: Yes, everyone's interpretation and opinion is completely legitimate, and cannot by definition be wrong, and all viewpoints are unique snowflakes that place the film in new and original lights. That being said, one particular interpretation we've heard a few times now is completely wrong. I'm speaking, of course, about the "murder" interpretation.

This theory about the film goes something like this: Chris' character is cleaning out my apartment. We flash back to him talking to my character, who seems happy and complacement enough. Chris then sees a bloody tub, and cleans it. Therefore, given that my character seemed happy, he has killed me, possibly out of anger for my giving him bunk advice, and by cleaning up he is getting rid of the evidence.

I can understand why people see the film this way, but it doesn't hold up to further probing. Why would Chris clean out my apartment if he killed me? Why would the milk have gone bad in that short time? Why would he seem so sad rather than nervous and panicky? Why would he leave my Chicago t-shirt behind? No - there is nothing to support this. But I think people fall back on it because it's what they've been led to expect from other films. Murder is so common in our cinema (not that I'm complaining - my own scripts are rife with it) that it's the first thing people reach for, and they don't bother to delve into it or ask basic questions or rummage around their heads to see if anything else is in there.

I don't think one should really take what the filmmakers' were going for as the be-all-end-all gospel of interpretation, except, maybe, as a guidepost of some sort. Here then is my guidepost as to what the hell is going on in The Last Time We Met.

I killed myself.

It's that simple. Chris gets laid off from his job. He comes to see me, a former co-worker who was also laid off. I try to give him some advice on being unemployed. I try to seem happy. Sometime after that, I slit my wrists in my tub. (When writing the script, we kept asking each other how we would kill ourselves in our apartment. Hanging was no good - there's nothing on the ceiling to tie the noose to. Neither of us own a gun. And so we ended up with the wrist slitting.) Having no family, or perhaps with no one else available to do it, Chris volunteers to clean out my apartment.

Seen in that light, I would hope my words come off as sadly ironic/pathetically morbid, particularly "There's a silver lining here." One person said that my words didn't hold any indications of my future status as a suicidee. I disagree. "But you've gotta let that motivate you" and "You have a chance to do what makes you happy" juxtaposed with the bloody tub? I'd say those are pretty strong indicators. And then there's the final line: "What do you have to get up for?" My character certainly has nothing to get up for, and eventually this depresses him enough to put himself out of his misery. Funny enough, this gives Chris something to get up for: cleaning up my mess. I also think/hope that the lines heard while he empties the fridge could also be applied to his mood while cleaning.

Chris' performance supports this interpretation as well (and it is an excellent performance). He's determined to do the job, pauses once in a while to reflect, and has a moment of hesitation when confronted with my remains. As he does it, he replays our last conversation in his head. Hence the title of the film, The Last Time We Met. Which doesn't make so much sense with the murder interpretation, does it?

How long is the space between our last conversation and my suicide? I don't know. I don't think it matters. Perhaps I'd already made up my mind to do it, and was embued with that strange sense of relief and happiness some suicide victims are said to display ("Finally, I won't have to worry about [blank] anymore"). Maybe I'm still wallowing in misery, and hiding it to cheer my friend up. Maybe the beer is giving me a momentary buzz. Whatever. All I know is, there's been enough time between my suicide and Chris' cleanup for the milk to go bad. And that's all that matters.

Disagree? Please leave a comment reaming me out and putting me in my place.

I should say, of course, that not everyone who's unemployed is a depressive mess. A lot of my dialogue was stolen from/inspired by my buddy Lorin, who, as a Michigander in the arts, has found himself between jobs. Lorin is still with us today, I'm happy to report, and doing quite well. In fact, he was kind enough to post his thoughts on our film and our competitors' films on his own blog. As usual, his take is bluntly honest and brutally hilarious.

It's a question that's come up in a lot of the shorts I've worked on recently: How much information do you keep from the audience and let them figure out on their own, and how much do you explain? This question most often came up with A.E. Griffin's Playback.

Is too mysterious? Does it leave too much unanswered? It's a fine line, and I'd rather err on the side of confusion than the side of over-explanation. Chris and I discussed showing more in The Last Time We Met, one or two brief shots me in the tub, alive and/or dead. Ultimately, we nixed it. With a three minute timeline, the short couldn't support any overly dramatic shots that would weigh too much and take away from the rest of the film. If we'd shown that, people would walk away with it in their heads, and that's not what we wanted to emphasize. We wanted to emphasize the aftermath, the burden placed on those who have to pick up the meager remains.

Well, now I'm the one getting too dramatic.

Will we go back and recut The Last Time We Met to make the suicide interpretation clearer? Fuck. No.

13 May 2009

"Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change?"

We've gone and done it again.

Back in March, Chris Kapcia and I created the short film Duly Noted. You may have seen it. If you have not, here it is:

I am proud to announce that our follow up is on its way to your computer screen. It's called The Last Time We Met, and to answer your first question, no, I do not appear nude. I don't do those kinds of scenes to my knowledge. But it is a bleak drama stuffed into a three minute package featuring a great performance by Chris. Fun!

It came about because a local bar in our neighborhood, The Sparrow, is hosting an inaugural film competition it hopes to turn into a regular event. Despite our complete lack of a camera, I went and registered us for it. The rules are simple: each team contributes a film title written on a slip of paper. There's a blind drawing, and whichever title you end up with serves as the one for your film. You then have three weeks to create a three minute masterpiece.

Simple as pie, I thought. I've twice participated in another three week competition, Project Twenty1, except for all of those shooting/acting/editing parts of filmmaking. A three minute film shouldn't pose too much of a problem. And frankly, it didn't (in comparison to, I don't know, Apocalypse Now). The hardest part turned out to be getting our hands on an actual camera.

Other complications occurred later

Once we had the title, we spent a couple of days mulling it over, pitching ideas back and forth. We didn't want to go with our first instincts, so we let it digest for a bit until we hit on something we liked. The script came quickly, and was designed to be shot quickly with an economy of characters and locations - two guys, one apartment. Of course, that was the same economy we shot Duly Noted with, so we wanted a different apartment and at least one different guy to take my place in front of the camera.

We eventually got our hands on a camera owned by an actor friend of Chris', one who we wanted to act in the film as well. Unfortunately, our schedules never intertwined, and we had to get the damn thing shot - deadlines are a great motivation - which resulted in, once again, the Kapcia-Muschong dynamic contained within the same standard issue Outer Borough-class apartment. We apologize for the repetition, but we did try to switch things up visually, so hopefully you won't notice.

Last weekend, at about 1:30 Saturday morning, we started shooting. Our complete lack of technical prowess gives us the ability to shoot fast. We know fuck-all about lighting and sound, so we don't worry about it too much. If it looks nice enough in the camera, it's good to go. We make up for this with the thing that more filmmakers should prize much more highly than fancy equipment and CGI: story and character.

At least, we hope we do.

We got what we needed done that night within a couple of hours, and the next afternoon we went shopping for props, returned to the apartment, cleaned the living hell out of it, and shot the rest. While Chris, who's the one who actually knows how to use editing software, uploaded the footage to his computer, I spent a Lost Weekend wandering around Studio 54 and buying drinks for Reggie Jackson and Sophia Loren. When I returned, I forced Chris off the computer and clubbed him to sleep so that we could look upon our work with fresh eyes for the next day's editing.

Cutting together Duly Noted only took us a few hours because it had been so simply shot, and there was no sound to worry about (the music, on the other hand, took a while, and I am happy to say that I did nothing to contribute to it). The Last Time We Met was similar, so we assumed the visuals would take us a couple hours to snip together. So of course it took us around ten hours. Two of those were spent trying to figure out how to move all of our footage to the beginning of the editing software's timeline to replace what we had cut, and then another forty-five minutes were spent accepting our failure, and putting back in what we had previously taken out.

The next night: sound! This went a bit faster, and after a few hours of work, we were able to make a .WMV file and share it with the venerable AEG for his feedback. He gave it a good response, and had some suggestions, then later suggested not implementing his suggestions, so...we don't know. We're happy with it as it is, but we may end up tinkering with it a little tomorrow night. Either way, if this is the version we submit, we won't worry about it any.

This is me worrying

The official version, however, will have credits. We asked the competition's organizer about those while we were editing - would the three minute run time include credits, or could an exception be made to give a shout out to everyone involved? - and we were first told that a twenty-second surplus past three minutes would be acceptable, but the next day we got a new message explaining that after conferring with the panel, it was decided that any credits had to fit into the three minutes.

I assume we're going to be seeing a lot of creditless films.

For our part, we had enough space (approximately one and a half seconds) to throw in the title and a Hard Boiled Productions copyright. We'll extend them for our final final cut.

The submission deadline is Sunday, so we'll probably drop our DVD copy off on Saturday, depending on any last minute adjustments. All the films will be going online here on Monday, May 18th, so keep your eyes open. Prize and award winners will be announced on May 28th.

We shall see...

04 May 2009


I spent last Sunday in the company of Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. It's one of the best biographical films ever made, succinctly exploring the theories and philosophies and all the stuff that made Yukio Mishima Yukio Mishima in a vibrant, compelling fashion, so much so that when it's over, we really do have an idea of why he did what he did.

Most biographies are cause and effect: Because Johnny Cash/Ray Charles felt guilty about their brothers' deaths, they went on to lead hell-raising lives of drugs and sorrow, yet also made wonderful music. Around the hour-forty-five mark, they find redemption. But those films remain a shallow recreation of a life without getting into the nitty gritty; the reduction to a cause and an effect loses sight of who the person actually was, and how they lived. Giving a rote recitation of "important" highlights loses sight of what really matters.

So what the hell makes Mishima so great? He was a writer, the author of numerous novels, short stories, and poems, and he espoused an odd duck view of the world that was somewhat unique. From my (admittedly not very extensive) readings and research, the gist of what Mishima believed is that the proper way to preserve purity and beauty is to destroy it at its height, before it can decay (the ol' going out on top routine, otherwise popularly known as "The Seinfeld Principle"). This was enmeshed with his own probably bisexual and likely masochistic leanings, as well as his assertions that Japan should revert to worshipping the Emperor as a human god, except that it wasn't really the Emperor people would be worshipping, it would be the Emperor-as-symbol-of-Japan's-divine-essence. And a whole bunch of other stuff. As a result, his writings contain quite a few incidents of beautiful suicides in his work.

One day (November 25, 1970, to be exact), Mishima put his body where his mouth was. Along with a core group of followers from the Shield Society, a private army he raised, Mishima took an SDF general hostage and demanded to address the troops. He was allowed, and he exhorted them to overthrow the government and put the Emperor back in charge. The soldiers jeered him, and he went back into the office and committed seppuku.

What the film Mishima manages to do is summarize the thinking and the chain of events that led to this moment (and in four chapters, natch) by intercutting black and white depictions of events in Mishima's life, a realistic colorized retelling of his last day, condensed versions of three of his novels told with obviously fake yet gorgeous (or "stylized") sets and lighting, and a voiceover of excerpts from his autobiographical writings as read by Roy Scheider (or Ken Ogata, depending which version you choose on the Criterion DVD). Everything comes together at the end in the general's office.

I did have something of a quibble with the film. To tell you about it is a bit of a spoiler, but not really. See, you already know how the film ends, because it tells you at the beginning: Mishima kills himself. What I need to delve into is the "how" the movie depicts his final moments.

Seppuku was a recurring motif in Mishima's writing, and was always depicted in a positive, glorious light. For example, one of his stories, "Patriotism," is devoted entirely to a detailed telling of an Army officer and his wife committing the act after the failed coup in February 1936, a story which Mishima later made into a short film.

However, when it actually came time for Mishima to commit his own seppuku, it did not go quite so well. He plunged the sword into his belly and cut. At this point, his second (or kaishakunin) was supposed to cut off his head in one swift chop, thus ending his pain (as was the tradition). In Mishima's case, things did not go so smoothly. I found several different variations online describing how it went wrong. Here's my favorite:
Mishima said to Morita [his second] after he had first cut his stomach open "Do not leave me in agony too long". Morita then made his first attempt to behead Mishima, but as he swung the sword, Mishima fell forward and Morita hit the carpet of the General's office, cutting Mishima across the back and shoulders. Morita tried again to behead Mishima, but he hit his body and not his neck giving Mishima a severe wound to his body. Once again Morita swung his sword. This time he struck Mishima's neck, but he didn't cut his neck completely. Furu-Koga took the sword from Morita and beheaded Mishima with one blow. After Mishima was beheaded, Morita tried to commit seppuku as well, but he was too weak after trying to behead Mishima. Morita then signaled to Furu-Koga to behead him. Furu-Koga then beheaded Morita with one stroke of his sword.
I love that, so, so much. Here is a man who had an idealized view of suicide, and had depicted it so lovingly in his writings. And yet when it came time for himself to go through it, that happy little bird called "reality" intervened and made it somewhat less than illustrious.

But Mishima doesn't show us that. The movie climaxes when Mishima stabs himself in the gut (shown in a nice Vertigo shot), then ends with his protagonist in Runaway Horses offing himself in the same fashion, but in a more romantic sort of way. We do get hints that the kaishakunin will screw up, but nothing more. I know why the movie does this: It wants to get us into Mishima's head, and show us things from his point of view. In this respect, the actual act of it is not so important as the why and the philosophy behind it. Nothing really matters once he finally makes the plunge, and showing it would have thrown the movie off the rails, and would have missed the point.

But wouldn't it have been great? It's one of my favorite instances of brutal real-life irony. Oh well. I still love you, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (and your oft-stolen Philip Glass score).