david bowie
Credit: Universal Pictures/Criterion Collection
by Fred Barrett Featured Film Kicking the Canon Kicking the Canon

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence — Nagisa Ôshima

August 24, 2023

At first glance, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence seems to exist in opposition to its creator’s body of work. Directed and co-written by Nagisa Ôshima, an icon of the Japanese New Wave — a movement which also included Toshio Matsumoto, Shôhei Imamura, and Seijun Suzuki — the film contains little of the formal experimentation, transgressive subject matter, or political radicalism that had defined the director’s oeuvre up to that point. His most controversial work, 1976’s In the Realm of the Senses, notoriously included unsimulated sex acts between Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji, while 1969’s Death by Hanging was a treatise on guilt, racism, and the death penalty which made use of the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt.

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Part of Kicking the Canon — The Film Canon.

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