4.0, Europe, Japan

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

1983 / Nagisa Oshima > Oshima’s take on love and sexuality in In the Realm of the Senses is equally as unforgettable as what he does with war in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. The nuances of conflict have been touched upon in multiple ways, but there is something truly intimate here that doesn’t really strike you until the very last second. It’s easy to show the superficial nature of friendship for those on opposing sides, but Oshima manages to capture the whole gamut—from jealousy and hatred to love and respect—through rich cultural subtext and pointed camerawork. His exploration of the differences in mentality between the British prisoners and their Japanese captors is superlative to more heralded attempts such as The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack is haunting, though its electronic sensibilities can feel a bit dated at times. Still, the title track remains one of my favorite instrumentals ever. Trickiest, no doubt, is Sakamoto’s overacting which may have been caused by his mediocre grasp of English. (Sakamoto himself found his performance cringe-worthy.) On the other end, David Bowie picks up quite a bit of the slack opposite an incredible performance by Takeshi Kitano. In a film filled with memorable scenes, his last one takes the cake. It makes everything click at the end and confirms that you’ve seen something special.