On January 15, 2013, the world of cinema lost one of its greatest voices when director Nagisa Oshima succumbed to complications from multiple strokes. Perhaps best known for his erotic and charged drama, In the Realm of the Senses in the West, Oshima had a storied career full of films that tackled themes like radicalism, disillusionment, discrimination, and sexual politics. Not only active in narrative film, he also handled numerous documentaries exploring, in many cases, the same themes. His final film was the 1999 jidai-geki Gohatto (Taboo) starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Tadanobu Asano, and his Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence actor, Takeshi Kitano. Though directed after his first stroke, Nagisa would never return to the director’s chair.
My favorite film from Oshima is, without a doubt, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Starring Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, and musicians David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also scored), its look at the relationships between two prison officers and two POWs in a WWII-era prison camp is potent cinema. It is dramatic, delicately told, and so impacting a film that a certain courage is required to revisit it. It is a brilliant film, and one I have a personal affinity for; it helped me get through a particularly difficult time in my life so I’d just like to say “Thank You Mr. Oshima, and Good Night.”