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This is a powerhouse psychological war movie with a mind haunting musical score. David Bowie gives a riveting performance as Celliers. The ending brought tears to my eyes.
Loosely based on Lauren's van der Post's trilogy 'The Seed and The Sower', Nagisa Oshima's English language film (1983) is set on the island of Java in 1942 (during World War II).
Written by Paul Mayersberg and the director, this film explores the situation of English prisoners of war held by the Japanese on the remote island of Java, offshore of Indonesia, and their Japanese captors.
In particular, it tells the story of Colonel John Lawrence (Tom Conti) - a man like Laurens van der Post - who has a deep understanding of Japanese culture, but is incarcerated like all the others. A powerful mediator between the English and the Japanese, John Lawrence helps the audience to understand this violent and often perplexing behaviour of their captors.
Captain Yonoi (Ryuchi Sakamoto) shows us the honest, understanding and straightforward face of the educated Japanese officer in these difficult circumstances. Sergeant Gengo Hara (Takeshi Kitano) helps us to understand the rather formal, misguided, traditional non-commissioned officer whose parallel is our own 'Sergeant Major' or 'Drill Sergeant'.
The crisis of cross-cultural understanding is heralded by the arrival of a British soldier who inadvertantly conforms to the Japanese ideal of heroism - Major Jack Selliers (David Bowie). In Selliers, even Captain Yonoi, has to sit up and take notice. A very British sense of 'fair play' is somehow paradoxically engendered.
It's not hard to ignore the obvious pop stars, in this great film whose sweep and focus leads us inexorably to confront the painful conflicts of our parents or grandparents, because we cannot help but feel the keen emotions evoked by it.
How hard it is to bear the merciless execution of the violent Sgt Hara, when we truly understand how meekly he accepts it and why.
And what great good fortune that Ryuchi Sakamoto could have written such a haunting musical theme to the movie.. while he was only getting paid for acting !
A film that goes beyond the laws and customs of the convention, with an ending that will linger and stay with you long after the pictures fade.
From the perspective of culture conflict, it is somehow impressive.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is was good Japanese/British Drama Christmas movie in World War II and friendship.
I believe this is my first Bowie film. It also feature another music star, Ryuichi Sakamoto. Naturally not as big around here, but his a known Eastern star.
Well, some Brits are POW's at a camp in Japan. There are especially three British guys we get to know, and three or four Japanese fellas. The setting is 1942, WWII and the Japs are not very gentle. Still they show lots of emotions and dignity. The officers in command got it more in their mouths than they truly put to actions, the soliders often tries to perform harakiri or "seppuku" - self belly cutting for letting down someone or themselves. This is the best way of it, a truly honorful death.
Bowie as Jack Celliers delivers a fine performance. Tom Conti as Lawrence is just as good and the Japanese actors are very Japan-like. Solid stuff. The first hour is not as interesting as the second hour. More happenings here, less waiting and talking. Some neat flashbacks and very cool scenes are present - it's making up for a mediocre beginning. It's more emotional than dramatic or exciting. It never really gets me, though. Culture clash and humanity and differences is key here and with some homosexual vibes we have a pretty unique film in a war setting. Solid score by one of the leads, Ryuichi Sakamoto, is also a plus.
7 out of 10 flower eaters.
Interesting war movie which only gains true cohesion in its last 20 minutes. It' s a tough slog up to that point but the performances are solid enough to hold interest.
You can hardly find a better cast with world-famous singer, composer and director. Magnificent score by Mr Sakamoto.
One of the most moving portraits of friendship and underlying homosexual feelings my eyes and ears have ever been exposed to.
An absolute UFO, this movie makes a magnificent use of the four main actors (Bowie, Conti, Kitano, Sakamoto), dialogs are terrific, and the music alone suffices to put it in a class by itself. Not sure everybody can love this movie because he's so far from classical war prisonners movies, but you won't guess your reaction without trying. Probably the best movie featuring Bowie.