Best of the New York Film Fest's Nagisa Oshima Tribute

The radical who left his will on film

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

From Oshima's later career (after one stroke, he made 1999's Taboo; after two strokes, it's unclear whether he'll direct again), most notable is this bilingual, end-of-WWII tearjerker about forgiveness and understanding between cultures, which could have been dubbed The Man Who Fell to Java. A parachuting major with a secret (David Bowie) is captured and brought to a Japanese prison camp run by a repressed gay captain (pop star Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also composed the very-'80s synth score) and his crude underling (Takeshi "Beat" Kitano), who first greets the new inmate upside-down. "What a funny face. Beautiful eyes, though," deadpans a bemused Bowie, in what seems a tailored role. Who else could eat a flower as a forceful act of POW defiance?

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