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Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence R CC

4.6 out of 5 stars (90) IMDb 7.3/10

MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE is a multilayered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash that was one of Oshima's greatest successes.

Starring:
David Bowie, Tom Conti
Runtime:
2 hours, 4 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Military & War, Drama
Director Nagisa Ôshima
Starring David Bowie, Tom Conti
Supporting actors Ryûichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Jack Thompson, Johnny Ohkura, Alistair Browning, James Malcolm, Chris Broun, Yûya Uchida, Ryûnosuke Kaneda, Takashi Naitô, Tamio Ishikura, Rokkô Toura, Kan Mikami, Yûji Honma, Daisuke Iijima, Hideo Murota, Barry Dorking, Geoff Clendon
Studio Image Entertainment
MPAA rating R (Restricted)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This marvelous film, based on my favorite novel "The Seed And The Sower" by Sir Laurence Van Der Post, is light years away from the stereotypical prisoner-of-war film. It is so because of its profound understanding of clashing cultures, the hatreds that drive them, and the love that redeems hostile nations time and time again. David Bowie is often cited as the main character, but in actuality, his is a compelling supporting role. Tom Conti has the best role of his career as Lieutenant Colonel John Lawrence, a British officer imprisoned in a camp on Java. Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto scored the film and also plays Captain Yonoi, the aristocratic, Shakespeare-quoting commandant of the camp. These two characters have a strong relationship which, nevertheless, is handicapped by the fact that Lawrence understands the Japanese better than Yonoi understands the British. Yonoi, and Bowie's character, Major Jack Celliers, are wracked with guilt over incidents in their past; Yonoi was unable to be with, and die with, his comrades, the "shining young officers" of Japan's February 1936 military coup. Celliers betrayed his deformed younger brother while attending boarding school. Lawrence is caught in the middle of these two tortured men. He is repelled by the brutality of the Japanese, even as he respects them, and their samurai code of honor. Indeed, wayward Japanese guards are dealt cruel and lightening-fast corporal punishment by their officers; and mistreatment of the prisoners is due to cultural belief, not simple sadism. The beauty of this film lies in the empathy that ostensible enemies feel for one another, and the unexpected kindnesses they show toward one another. But Yonoi's devotion to bushido, and blindness to the British sense of honor, leads to a startling climax.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
A highly unusual war movie with as many detractors as fans, this English-language feature directed by Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses) stars David Bowie as a silent, ethereal POW in a Japanese camp. Protesting--via his own enigmatic rebellion--the camp's brutal conditions and treatment of prisoners, Bowie's character earns the respect of the camp commandant (Ryuichi Sakamoto). While the two seem locked in an unspoken, spiritual understanding, another prisoner (Tom Conti) engages in a more conventional resistance against a monstrous sergeant (Takeshi). The film has a way of evoking as many questions as certainties, and it is not always easy to understand the internal logic of the characters' actions. But that's generally true of Oshima's movies, in which the power of certain relationships is almost hallucinatory in self-referential intensity. The cast is outstanding, and Bowie is particularly fascinating in his alien way.
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Format: Blu-ray
He is known as one of Japan's most controversial but also highly respected director, his name is Nagisa Oshima, a filmmaker who shocked Japan with his films in the '60s and achieved notoriety with his unsimulated sex film "In the Realm of Senses" and followed up with another controversial film with "Empire of Passion" (1978).

One of the founders of the Japanese New Wave, Oshima was known for taking on Japanese taboos and creating films against the status quo and in 1983, Nagisa Oshima, now residing in France, went to work on his film "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence", a historical war film loosely based on the novel "The Seed and The Sower" by Laurens Van der Post and Laurens' experience as British soldier who surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 and was a prisoner of war for several years and saw how soldiers were treated by the Japanese but how he was able to stay alive due to his ability to speak Japanese.

But Nagase Oshima has always had a different perspective towards Japanese culture and for Nagashima, this was a chance to explore men's attitudes in POW camp but to also explore perspectives of men from two different worlds and the consequences of war. Because "The Bridge on the River Kwai" was released in 1957 and dealt with British prisoners of war, both Oshima and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg ("The Man Who Fell to Earth", "Eureka", "The Last Samurai") wanted to make things different with this film and other POW war films. "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" would eventually be nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for six Japanese Academy Awards and also a winner of a BAFTA Award for "Best Score". And now "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" has been given the Criterion Collection treatment and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD.
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2 Comments 18 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
I originally saw this movie many years ago on a cable premium movie channel, and I think that version had either English subtitles or dubbed English vocals for the Japanese dialog. Anyway, the particular VHS version offered here by Amazon has neither. Amazon's product description does not warn potential purchasers of this "missing piece." That said, I am glad that I decided to purchase this movie (VHS video) so that I could see it again. Also, for you viewers who are members of the NetFlix or Blockbuster rental video service, a Region 1 DVD is not available (as of Feb. 2007).

This movie is one of the most unique and interesting WWII movies I have ever seen. Tom Conti (Lawrence) and Davie Bowie (Celliers) give knockout performances. The Japanese actors are equally excellent. With the lack of subtitles, one has to guess what is transpiring when the characters are speaking Japanese (quite a lot of Japanese dialog). Fortunately, the Japanese actors are very good with facial expressions and body language, which provide some insight into what is going on.

Some reviewers have compared "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" with "The Bridge On the River Kwai" (1957). The former reflects the sensibilities of a Japanese director, and the latter the sensibilities of a British director (David Lean). Therefore, IMO, a direct comparison is not really meaningful. These two films are so very different in many ways. I also think that "Merry Christmas..." is not so much a "war movie" as it is a study in the contrast of Japanese culture and values with Western ones. The plot also explores, with the Celliers' character, the tortured mind of a man who finds himself in the most desperate of circumstances.
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