by Jackson Posted: November 2nd, 2010 at 12:56 pm
Few film genres cover such a wide range of perspectives and styles as do those about war. War movies range from those that glorify combat to those that reveal its deepest, darkest horrors; from those that take place direct on the battlefield to those that revolve around ancillary elements; and from those that are intensely patriotic to those that are pointedly critical of one’s own nation’s actions. Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a “war” film that explores the intense conflict between different cultural mores when those very mores themselves are being challenged by the brutal realities of a world at war. My review after the jump:
If you think of the Criterion Collection the way I do – as something of an ongoing film education - then In the Realm of the Senses is probably the first film by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima you’ll ever see. It’s certainly his most famous project, and in that respect, it’s a logical place to start. The Criterion guys have even made the introduction easier on audiences by featuring a new commentary by Japanese film scholar Donald Ritchie on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions that functions more as an overview of the director’s career than a direct essay on the film itself.
But as luck would have it, the release coincides with a traveling Oshima retrospective organized by James Quandt of the Cinematheque Ontario, which helps put the film in context. And a good thing, too, because In the Realm of the Senses is an extreme case – the story of an amour fou between a hotel owner and one of his maids that builds to strangulation, S&M and the most personal of keepsakes (perhaps the only art film capable of challenging Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist in the genital-mutilation department) – and I’d hate to imagine going through life thinking all of Oshima’s films were like that. My full write-up after the jump: