Yukio Mishima was a figure of such supernatural vitality that he seemed to belong to another world. The novelist, playwright, actor, bodybuilder, exhibitionist, imperialist and self-styled samurai is frequently regarded as 20th-century Japan’s most illustrious author.

Still, he remains most famous for the outrageous manner of his death: on Nov. 25, 1970, at age 45, Mishima committed seppuku after he and his private army occupied and staged a protest at a Tokyo military headquarters. Mishima’s 1966 short film Patriotism and Paul Schrader’s 1985 feature Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters present two intense, illuminating perspectives on the author’s life and death.

In Patriotism, on which the author also served as screenwriter (adapting his own story), producer and director, Mishima portrays an army lieutenant who commits seppuku after his involvement in a failed coup. Patriotism has been considered the most overt of Mishima’s many fictional rehearsals for his ritual suicide; all prints of the film were destroyed after his death, but the negative was recovered.

More than simply a must for Mishima-manes, the half-hour black-and-white film offers an unflinching look at a man who takes the measure of loyalty and life. The Patriotism disc includes Japanese and English versions, a making-of documentary and a 1966 interview with Mishima on death and writing.

Mishima is a transfixing film. In this complex and contradictory character who declared himself a “kamikaze for beauty,” Schrader finds his ideal subject for his exploration into what he calls “the pathology of suicidal glory.”

Structured in four parts – Beauty, Art, Action and Harmony of Pen and Sword – Schrader’s film oscillates between Mishima’s last day (shot near-verité-style), his biography (rendered in black and white) and three of Mishima’s fictional worlds (imagined in voluptuously colorful mise-en-scènes). Mishima synthesizes many masterful elements: Schrader and his brother Leonard’s screenplay, Philip Glass’ vigorous, haunting score, John Bailey’s spellbinding photography, Eiko Ishioka’s mesmerizing production designs and Ken Ogata’s remarkable performance as Mishima.

The two-disc set not only includes a lavish booklet and such extras as the BBC documentary “The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima” and a fascinating director’s commentary from Schrader but also boasts Criterion’s most beautiful box (and this is Criterion No. 432!).

Schrader’s magnum opus is among the very few films about writers to confidently and convincingly meld an author’s real-life inspirations and obsessions with his imaginary landscapes. The most audacious and accomplished of Schrader’s films as a director, Mishima is a cinematic inquiry into the extremities of art and identity and an extraordinary portrait of an astonishing writer and the roles he created both on and off the page.

Patriotism Grade: B+ Mishima Grade: A

Mishima and Patriotism are currently available.