Kazuo Hara trades the confrontational style and provocation of his previous works for a gentler, more intimate approach to his subject, but his ability to give painful truths a remarkable palpability remains intact.
In his final (as of the last 20 or so years) documentary, Kazuo follows novelist Mitsuharu Inoue as Mitsuharu fights cancer and desperately attempts to hold onto and perpetuate his creative myth and power.
Kazuo is obsessed with obsession, and his portrait of Mitsuharu continues this trend. Faced with his mortality, Mitsuharu writes as much as he can, he teaches more, he talks more, he tries to regain some hold of what once was his literary power. We may be watching a dying man, one who we know probably will not live to the end of this film, but Mitsuharu refuses to let the audience see any semblance of exhaustion. Every time he is on camera, he is loud, witty, furious, charming – and always working.
As the film goes on (and it does go on, at 157 minutes my only criticism is that it could have been tightened up), Kazuo highlights this last aspect of Mitsuharu, the idea that he is always working, and has always been working for his entire life. Mitsuharu does not just live to work, his life is his work. Kazuo shows clips of Mitsuharu telling stories of his life, then immediatley cuts to an interview with a friend directly contradicting Mitsuharu’s story. Eventually, Kazuo films reenactments of Mitsuharu’s stories, Kazuo now telling stories of told stories.
Much like fellow author Yukio Mishima, Mitsuharu Inoue seemed to find purpose in becoming a man worthy of the myth he created. And, unlike Yukio, who eventually collapsed under the weight of his ambition, Kazuo’s film shows Mitsuharu as a man who’s obsession with crafting the story of his life ultimately made in him a man worthy of the tales he told. He was a womaniser, a scoundrel, a narcissist at times – but he was always kind, forgiving, funny, and generous, willing to become the change he wanted in the world, even if that meant lying a little bit.
It’s hard to watch a man die over the course of a film, but, much like Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, A Dedicated Life finds hope and beauty in these last rites.