Nagisa Oshima’s name should be on the lips of everyone who watches MERRY CHRISTMAS MISTER LAWRENCE. The renegade film maker, who was at dead centre of the Japanese New Wave, deserves no less. However, this commentary on Japan’s second world war history, discomfort at homosexuality and obedience is often seen as a vehicle for David Bowie. An ethereal actor, with a unique presence unparalleled onscreen.

1983 MERRY CHRISTMAS MISTER LAWRENCE, juxtaposes the relationship of two men in servitude, with two men in command, within the stifling jungle heat of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java. Both relationships are built on expectation. The first is an expectation to acquiesce. Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence (Tom Conti), lived and work in Japan and knows Japanese culture. This grants him access. Understanding of the language, brings him close to second-in-command, Sergeant Hara (Takeshi Kitano), a man possessing compassion and respect. The second is an expectation to submit. British officer Major Jack Celliers (Bowie) is captured by Japanese soldiers and sent to the camp. He comes into direct conflict with Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto). Neither submit, nor relent.

Produced by Jeremy Thomas (The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky), always seemed to love films that challenge and excite. Oshima film suffuses his interest in sexual politics and Japanese history, to make an extraordinary pointed work. One that might leave some in the audience grasping at the horror, not only of the treatment of soldiers but also how militarism is sub-fused with homoerotic sex. Brilliant and brutal in equal turns.


The 1080p transfer has increased Oshima use of colour and tonal lighting. Moved from flat to warm and cool. This is a very great thing. Indeed. What it has not done, being honest, is deal with some of the exterior scenes and the slight grain issue at the end.



Respectfully, I was interested in two of the extras. The Man Who Left His Soul on Film. Paul Joyce s 82-minute documentary not only is a profile of Nagisa Oshima. It extracts his work into a coherent series of works. The Oshima Gang , is more interesting as a whirlwind 30-minute documentary following the film s cast and makers at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is a hive of noise and this shows what happens when talent is given an outing there.



  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed stereo audio
  • The Man Who Left His Soul on Film (1983), Paul Joyce s 82-minute documentary profile of Nagisa Oshima
  • The Oshima Gang (1983), a 30-minute documentary following the film s cast and makers at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival
  • Video interviews with producer Jeremy Thomas and actor-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Exclusive newly filmed interview with critic Tony Rayns
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sam Hadley
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jasper Sharp


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