Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1983
Prisoner of war films offer an eye-of-the-storm perspective from which to contemplate the chaos of war. In the tradition of Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion (1937), and David Lean’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957), Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence investigates the psyches of men from very different cultures in this tale of British captives in a Japanese POW camp. Co-written by Oshima and Paul Mayersberg from an Afrikaner’s published memoirs, Oshima uses the perspective of the non-Japanese to turn his lens on WWII Japan.
In the Realm of the Senses – dir. Nagisa Oshima – 1976
Nagisa Oshima’s tale of sexual obsession, In the Realm of the Senses, retains the power to shock despite being over 30 years old. Based on a true story, the film concerns one Sada Abe, found wandering the streets of 1936 Tokyo with her lover’s severed penis in her hand, who upon her arrest became a media sensation and folk heroine. Realm features non-simulated sex between the actors, BDSM, graphic violence, and other controversial elements that may or may not appear depending on what version you’re viewing, and where you’re viewing it. Widely banned upon release, it is perhaps Oshima’s best-known film.