Film Review

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UK Dvd Specifications

  • Actors: David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Jack Thompson
  • Director: Nagisa Oshima
  • Writers: Nagisa Oshima, Laurens Van der Post, Paul Mayersberg
  • Producers: Eiko Oshima, Geoffrey Nethercott, Jeremy Thomas, Joyce Herlihy
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (UK & Europe)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1

  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 24 Jan 2005
  • Run Time: 124 minutes

    UK Dvd Special Features

    -------------------------
    Exclusive interviews with
    Nagisa Oshima, Ryuchi
    Sakamato and Jeremy Thomas
    -------------------------
    The Oshima Gang: 30 min
    Making Of Documentary
    -------------------------
    Theatrical Trailer
    -------------------------

    Film Texts

    By no means an easy picture to deal with, this thinking man's version of The Bridge on the River Kwai makes no concessions to the more obvious commercial requirements, unless it is the selection of David Bowie, the pop star, for the leading dramatic role. Here he brings all his alien style of acting (Bowie has never been the most fluid of actors) to the role and it works.

  • The strongest point of the script, penned by Nagisa Oshima and Paul Mayersberg from a novel (The Seed and the Sower) by South African author Laurens van der Post, are the philosophical and emotional implications, brought up in a careful and intricate comparison between Orient and Occident on every possible level. The weakest point is its construction, sturdy and compact up to the point when it has to use flashbacks in order to explain the British side of the allegory.

    Set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java, the plot has a Japanese captain, Yonoi ( Ryuichi Sakamoto), trying to impose his own ideas of discipline, honor, order and obedience, in a clash with a British major, Celliers (Bowie), who represents the diametrically opposed train of thought.

    The conflict between the two leading figures is better verbalized by Colonel lawrence (Tom Conti), who lends his name to the film's title, and Hara (Takeshi), the Japanese sergeant whose popular origins allow him much more freedom of origins.

  • Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence unites rock legend David Bowie and the inimitable actor-director Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano (Zatoichi) in an intense social drama set in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp during World War II.

    When British soldier Jack Celliers (David Bowie, with the best peroxide blonde barnet seen anywhere in the 2nd World War; well he did have Let's Dance and Serious Moonlight on his mind) arrives at the PoW camp in Java starved and tortured, his arrival disrupts the delicate social structure of the camp and incites both admiration and distrust. The Japanese find it difficult to understand why the prisoners in their camp would have surrendered instead of killing themselves to retain their honour. Caught between the divided factions is liaison officer John Lawrence (Tom Conti), the only person in the camp to speak both English and Japanese, who struggles to help each side understand one another. Captain Yanoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto), the idealistic commandant who runs the camp, shows an unusual amount of interest in Jack and the relationship between them is fraught with sexual tension. Similarly, guard sergeant Gengo Hara (Takeshi Kitano) finds it difficult to accept the growing friendship between himself and Lawrence.

    Directed by Japanese auteur Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses) and produced by Jeremy Thomas (The Dreamers, The Last Emperor), Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence was originally released in 1983 and remains a riveting exploration of racism, brutality and the sparks that fly when cultures collide.

  • The thing that sticks in my mind from the movie is the ethereal music of Sakamoto. Beyond the acting, the cinematography, the direction ... beyond it all, it's the music that holds it all together like glue. When later Sakamoto asked his friend David Sylvian (the greatest singer of his generation and dare-I-say-it better than Bowie?) to provide lyrics and vocals to a single he gave us one of the most evocative and moving pieces of music of the 1980s.

    Looking back over 25 years it is the music that has aged best. That's taking nothing away from the film: it is good and it is watchable. But the music sounds as haunting today as the day it was made.

    Dvd available: amazon.co.uk (uk) | amazon.com (us)

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