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Performing Ethics Through Film StyleLevinas with the Dardenne Brothers, Barbet Schroeder and Paul Schrader$
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Edward Lamberti

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474444002

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474444002.001.0001

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Levinasian Limits of Performativity in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Levinasian Limits of Performativity in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

(p.170) Chapter 8 Levinasian Limits of Performativity in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
Performing Ethics Through Film Style

Edward Lamberti

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers Paul Schrader’s film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), a biopic on the life of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, and uses three different styles – black and white for the past, realistic, gritty colour for the present and highly stylised colour and décor for dramatic stagings from his novels. This fusion of styles is fitting for the subject: Mishima lived his life as performance art, and Schrader’s uses of film style perform Mishima’s own tendency towards performance. This, the chapter argues, is a Levinasian approach to the subject on Schrader’s part, as the film is open to exploring Mishima’s Otherness. But this also creates a limit in the film, as the viewer becomes aware that the film is unable (necessarily, in a Levinasian sense) to get truly close to Mishima’s Otherness. To try to would be unethical; to fail to is paradoxically a Levinasian move, as it reinforces the Otherness that no portrait can hope to unlock.

Keywords:   Paul Schrader, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Film style, Emmanuel Levinas, Yukio Mishima, Otherness, Performance

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