11 May 2009

Movie Review: Beautiful Mystery

Do not watch this movie unless you are looking for low quality early 1980s Japanese soft porn. The only reason I kept watching after the first ten minutes is my abiding interest in some aspects of the effects of a mostly middle-class society and the threads of militaristic nationalism that continue to pervade Japanese society. The movie wasn't a total waste and the main reason why I'm writing this review is my hope that when someone decides to tackle this particular kind of historical theme -- they tackle it versus having it tackle them and then rape them.

That being said, this ended up in my netflix queue when I went through netflix to see which Asian gay films they had that I had not yet watched elsewhere. Nakamura Genji's Beautiful Mystery was one of them.

Let me divert again and tell you a short little snippet about a famous dead Japanese writer, pictured above at the age of 15, named Yukio Mishima. Mishima was a famous Japanese nationalist after the Japanese lost World War II. He joined the paramilitary force in Japan and in 1970 staged a take over of the office of one of the commanders of the paramilitary. It was unsuccessful and he and his friends committed seppuku -- although it took a few whacks to behead him apparently. He was hated by the political left in Japan for his nationalistic samurai-worship and by the regular nutty Japanese nationalists for insisting that Hirohito should have abdicated and taken responsibility for the war dead.

So now you know about Yukio Mishima, let me present to you what netflix told me I was going to be watching:

Adult themes saturate this film about impressionable teenager Shinohara, who eagerly joins Makio Mitani's (Ren Osugi) muscle-bound private army and eventually discovers the men engage in more than just military training. In between all-night orgies and heavy drinking, Mitani's men prepare to fight in an upcoming coup against the government.

See, the movie is really about Yukio Mishima just before his failed coup. And, had it been more than a lot of simulated rape and gay sex scenes, it had the potential to go somewhere. At the end, (and I won't spoil it here so keep reading), you learn the person who wrote the film was a Mishima-styled nationalist who was deeply conflicted by his own sexuality and what that means for patriarchical militarism. Now, every other movie site I've looked at in preparation for writing this review provided this alternative synopsis:

Inspired by the life and death of writer Yukio Mishima, film employs the facts of the case as the pretext for a series of fetishistic scenes that stress the physical enticements of male bonding.

There is something twisted in the logic of militaristic nationalism and how it is related in many ways to a number of problems for the development of a male psyche: infantile sexuality, Don Juanism, puer eternus complex, Flying Dutchman syndrome, etc.,. But the film doesn't really take you from point A to point B. Instead, it shows you point A raping point B, then point A having an orgie with the rest of the letters, then the letters spending a day engaging in military training exercises, and then more letter orgie scenes.

The ending was a disaster and reminds me of some really poorly written "gay" themed movies out of Mexico in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- no movie about "gay" themes would be preferable to this subgenre. I do think the linking of socially acceptable forms of homosexuality to extreme, violent hyper-masculinity is a present-day transcultural theme. However, instead of analyzing that, the movie presented it as though that link is natural and preferrable. Boo to nationalism and boo to militarism.


  1. ...in 1970 staged a take over of the office of one of the commanders of the paramilitary. It was unsuccessful and he and his friends committed seppuku -- although it took a few whacks to behead him apparently. ouch. :)

  2. people forget that nationalism and militarism are two different things. maybe the producers of this film wanted to capitalize on people who do not know the difference.

  3. @gentle: i know. after he disemboweled himself, i guess the first guy couldn't strike his neck hard enough so they had someone else come in to finish it. reminds me of that video of the American civilian that went to Iraq and was beheaded. I vomited after watching it. They didn't behead the man, they cut his head off like a pig. The media totally understated the gruesomeness of it.

    @cb: i think the movie portrayed nationalism as a cause of militaristic violence. the relationship seems to be the opposite (in my mind). i think nationalism has purely economic causes. the original niche-market. but i think militarism enters when economic policies or circumstances limit the "nations" ability to economically develop.

  4. you have a point with your reply to Nyl (CB).

    i'm actually surprised that occured in Japan. i mean the orgy/sex thing within the circle of those in favor of militarism. i've always thought that Japanese men were not like that.