Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence [Criterion Collection] [Blu-ray]

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Synopsis

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence was the first English-language project of Japanese director Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses). In tune with his previous filmic essays on racism and brutality, Merry Christmas concentrates on a war of wills between rebellious POW David Bowie and camp commandant Ryuichi Sakomoto. Assuming that his other prisoners' unwillingness to protest their cruel treatment is a sign of weakness, Sakomoto is most impressed by Bowie's enigmatic defiance. While Bowie and Sakomoto seem to be operating on a high spiritual and intellectual plane, bilingual prisoner Tom Conti (the "Mr. Lawrence" of the title) engages in a more standard adversarial relationship with sadistic sergeant Takeshi Kitano. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Review

Review Text Neo Geo innovator and international musical collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto has run the gamut in his lengthy career, from the Kraftwerk-inspired work of the Yellow Magic Orchestra and a handful of high-profile soundtracks, to several solo albums and various guest spots with Arto Lindsay, David Sylvian, Thomas Dolby, and Public Image Ltd., among many others. And on the heels of the YMO's breakup in 1983, Sakamoto jumped right into the fray with this soundtrack to director Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Sakamoto also co-starred along with David Bowie). While not as sophisticated as the music he wrote for The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor (a collaboration with David Byrne), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence does sport one of Sakamoto's most fetching pieces, "ForbiddenColours" (given many treatments, including a fine David Sylvian vocal version), and a few successful Asian and Western classical hybrids. Unfortunately, though, the music often bogs down in bloated, synth-washed musings and staid rhythmic underpinnings. Not the best introduction to Sakamoto's work, but certainly worth a cut-out bin price for the lovely variations on "Forbidden Colours." ~ Stephen Cook

Product Details

Release Date
9/28/10 
Studio
Criterion
MPAA Rating
R -- Restricted
Length
2 hours, 3 minutes
Sound
  • DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles
  • English
Video Features
  • The Oshima Gang, a 1983 Making-0f Featurette
  • New Video Interviews with Producer Jeremy Thomas, Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg, Actor Tom Conti, and Actor-Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Hasten Slowly, an hour-long 1996 Documentary about Author Laurens van der Post, whose Autobiographical novel was the basis for the film
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • New and Improved English subtitle translation
  • Plus: a Booklet featuring an essay by film writer Chuck Stephens and reprinted Interviews with Director Nagisa Oshima and Actor Takeshi Kitano
Number of Discs
1

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