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

The radical who left his will on film

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Sand oddity: David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
Senjou no Merii Kurisumasu
Sand oddity: David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

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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