• Many of the great Japanese provocateur Nagisa Oshima’s films have long been out of circulation in any form, much less on digital home video. In recent years, Criterion has been doing its best to correct that, with releases of In the Realm of the Senses, Empire of Passion, and this past spring’s Eclipse set Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties. Now the director’s dazzlingly idiosyncratic World War II drama Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, starring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto as POW camp enemies, is available in Blu-ray and DVD editions, and critics are glad to have it back. “Not available since VHS went gently into that good night, Nagisa Oshima’s 1983 prisoner-of-war movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence has been given new life via a splendid Criterion package,” writes Jamie S. Rich at DVD Talk. Jen Yamato at Film.com calls Merry Christmas “one of Nagisa Oshima’s finest and most accessible meditations on culture clash between the East and West and the undeniable, potentially destructive nature of eroticism that results when the two cultures meet . . . A must-have for Oshima devotees.”

    And the judgment from DVD Verdict’s Clarke Douglas: “An immensely moving, rewarding experience. Criterion’s excellent release makes it an easy recommendation.” Douglas is especially enamored of the film’s unconventional use of actors: “It was something of a stroke of genius casting Bowie and Sakamoto in those respective roles—Bowie had established himself as one of the rock gods of Britain (and many other places, for that matter), while Sakamoto was arguably the biggest rock star in Japan at the time. So here they are, these two cultural icons, representing their respective cultures in strikingly theatrical form.”

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