Merry Christmas Mr.
Lawrence, directed by Nakisa Oshima, gets a BluRay overhaul loaded with extras
courtesy Criterion. See also our Ryuichi Sakamoto interview elsewhere on the
BLURT website. Film trailer is below.
By A.D. Amorosi
Nakisa Oshima’s Merry
Christmas Mr. Lawrence – based on the novel The Seed And The Sower by Sir Laurens van der Post, is the
prisoner-of-war film that got away, a sweeping epic that’s densely
claustrophobic and a deeply passionate film that studies guilt, order, loneliness,
brutality, the past’s personal crimes and the intricacies of male bonding
without lending itself to the obvious. As it is a Criterion BluRay, the
restored high-definition master pops so that David Bowie’s golden hair (new POW
Jack Celliers), the purple lilacs of Jack’s childhood and Takeshi Kitano’s dark
eyes (Sergeant Hara) stand in stark contrast to the broken foliage and bland
sands around them.
Interviews and making-of featurettes with producers, cast
and composers (Tom Conti and the double-duty-doing Ryuichi Sakamoto) are indeed
fascinating as is Hasten Slowly (a
documentary about van der Post) and the package’s culturally explosive essay by
Chuck Stephens. But mostly, it’s the opportunity to re-live 1942 Java and a
vision of sensitive yet savage captors (Sakamoto’s Captain Yonoi) and captives
(Conti’s Colonel Lawrence, Jack Thompson’s Commander) of World War II often
portrayed with dumb comedy and ham-handed dialogue.
Scenes of tense ritual destruction of the self and the soul
(seppuku, burial in sand) are part of Oshima’s trick bag (he did the hard
sensual In the Realm of the Senses and Empire of Passion) as is his wont
for one-take cuts and choppy edits. Sakamoto’s ever-so-slightly facile and Shakespeare
spouting Yanoi makes Bowie’s
nail-tough Celliers seem starker still in retrospect. But mostly, you’ll pay
attention to Oshima’s warm tones, Conti’s dignified soliloquies and Kitano’s
childlike diabolical and awkward ways with kindness and destruction.
New, restored high-definition master
The Oshima Gang,
an original making-of featurette
New interviews w/ Jeremy Thomas, Paul Mayersberg, Tom Conti,
& Ryuichi Sakamoto
Hasten Slowly, an
hour-long documentary about Laurens van der Post
Original theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film writer Chuck