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Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence(1983)
Celliers, a high-ranking British officer, is interned by the Japanese as a POW. The camp commander becomes obsessed with the mysterious blond major. Meanwhile, lieutenant colonel Mr. Lawrence tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between his captors and fellow prisoners.
For more about Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and the Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray release, see Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 10, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Jack Thompson, Johnny Okura
Director: Nagisa Ôshima
» See full cast & crew
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 10, 2011
Nominated for Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Japanese director Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" (1983) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; video interviews with producer Jeremy Thomas and actor and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto; behind the scenes featurette; and an excerpt from the documentary Scenes by the Sea: The Life & Cinema of "Beat" Takeshi Kitano. In English and Japanese, with optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Java, 1942. A large contingent of British POWs is kept in a remote Japanese prison camp. Amongst the prisoners, many of whom are seriously injured, are officers Celliers (David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Just a Gigolo), a proud, fearless to the point of stupidity, and brash man, and Lawrence (Tom Conti, Reuben, Reuben), strikingly intelligent, fluent in Japanese, and quiet loner. Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Last Emperor), a young, well educated, and proud officer, and Hara (Takeshi Kitano, referred in the final credits only as Takeshi, Sonatine, Outrage), a cruel but honorable warrior who isn't afraid of death, run the camp.
While the war rages on far away from Java, a strange bond forms between Celliers, Lawrence, Yonoi, and Hara. Even though they remain enemies, the men begin to admire each other - Yonoi admires Celliers and his spirit while Hara is impressed with Lawrence's tact and diplomatic skills.
The more time the men spend together, however, the less they understand what motivates them. What confuses them the most is the fact that neither side is particularly supportive of the war. Eventually, some of their mutual admiration evolves into frustration. As a result, Yonoi begins punishing some of the prisoners and even forces a few of his men to commit seppuku.
Based on Laurens Van der Post's novel, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is directed by Nagisa Oshima, arguably the most radical of mainstream Japanese directors. It is scripted as a war film but it is in fact a very complex examination of Japanese spirituality, and in particular Japanese attitude towards violence and death.
The film's morality is deeply rooted into the Japanese belief that, like life and death, love and violence are interconnected. Unsurprisingly, the admiration and respect Yonoi and Hara gradually develop for Celliers and Lawrence are expressed through acts of violence.
Another important aspect of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is the fact that the narrative is characterized by the strong presence of evil yet none of the main protagonists are evil men. They do hurt each other but not in conventional ways - or at least not until the final third of the film. For example, in one of the most memorable scenes from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - which has given many Western critics the confidence to incorrectly conclude that the film houses homosexual overtones - Celliers publicly kisses Yonoi in order to humiliate him. It is the most efficient way for him to hurt his enemy - exposing his disappointment with the fact that he is forced by international law to treat the prisoners in the camp in a way that contradicts his beliefs.
Director Oshima gained international recognition with his In The Realm of The Senses, an explicit film exploring the relationship between passion and sex, and specifically the eroticism of physical action. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is very much a film that explores a similar relationship, though this time around sex is replaced with spirituality.
Note: In 1983, Merry Mr. Lawrence was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. A year later, the film won five Mainichi Film Concours awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Film Score (Ryuichi Sakamoto).
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
The high-definition transfer Optimum Home Entertainment have used for their Blu-ray release of Marry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is not identical to the one Criterion used for their Blu-ray release. The Criterion high-definition transfer is slightly cropped to 1.78:1, while the Optimum Home Entertainment high-definition transfer preserves the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The two releases also have different color-schemes, though the discrepancies are extremely small. Criterion's release favors slightly stronger reds and browns (see screencaptures #2 and 19), while Optimum Home Entertainment's release favors lighter browns and greens. It is difficult to tell which is more accurate, but I lean towards the overall better balanced color-scheme on this Region-B release.
Detail is excellent, clarity pleasing, and contrast levels consistent. I have tried matching a couple of different screencaptures from the Criterion release so that you could get an idea how the two releases compare, but I'd recommend that you do not draw any definitive conclusions based solely on the screencaptures. Finally, I did not see any traces of excessive noise reduction or problematic sharpening. Naturally, a layer of light grain, matching the one from the Criterion release, is present throughout the entire film. For the record, I did not see any large cuts, warps, damage marks, or debris to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (with portions of Japanese). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. (On the Criterion release, the English subtitles appear only when Japanese is spoken. On this release, there are English subtitles strictly for the Japanese dialog, as well as English SDH subtitles for the English dialog).
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track adds depth and opens up Ryuichi Sakamoto's score slightly better, but I prefer the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. I believe that overall it serves the film better because it does not boost the dynamic amplitude to a point where balance could become problematic. Still, you should experiment with both tracks and see which one you like better. For the record, the dialog is crisp, clean, and stable, but not always easy to follow as some of the Japanese characters have rather thick accents.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Fans of Nagisa Oshima's classic film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence who could not take advantage of Criterion's very good Region-A release will be pleased with this new Region-B release produced by Optimum Home Entertainment and Studio Canal. The film looks great and the important supplemental features from the Criterion release have been ported. Buy with confidence, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence Blu-ray - June 16, 2011
British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment are set to release Japanese director Nagisa Ôshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), as a Double Play Edition, on August 8. In 1984, the film won the Readers' Choice Award for Best Film at the Kinema Junpo Awards. ...
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