Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Culture Crash

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) - Oshima
I remember watching this as a teenager on VHS. It was cool to see David Bowie buried up to his neck in the ground. I didn't fully understand what it was about though. Now Criterion put out a swanky 2 disc set of Mr. Lawrence, I decided to revisit it.

Oshima examines the dynamics among military machismo, homosexuality, beauty, sadism and generosity in the lush green setting of WWII Japanese internment camp in Java. Bowie is the case of perfect casting here as an object of desire. Young Ryuichi Sakamoto(also did a synth heavy score for the film) is also memorable as stoic Japanese officer who gets undone by a mere pair of kisses on the cheeks. But the standout is undoubtedly cherubic Takeshi Kitano as sgt. Hara. He is likable, terrifying and all too human all at once.

There are some odd choices, like flashback sequences with maj. Collier(Bowie) and his little brother - guilt of leaving his brother to the school bullies scarred him. Not a bad exposition but it's an awkward fit to put in the later part of the film. The swelling music gets irritating at times too. Oshima drives home the message that there are no right side in the war a bit too often. But he doesn't lose the sight on human desire and goodness of human heart. I really like this film.

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