peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 03 04 MerryChristmasMrLawrence

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

/noise/movies | Link

David Bowie acting completism; it was on the pile for quite a while. He does OK with what he's tasked with, which is to add some colour to what is a very bland P.O.W. movie; it reminded me of Changi the most, and somewhat less Stalag 17 — there are a few outliers from the herd here — and A Town Like Alice in that there's no escape attempt and it's tedious. Basically guerilla-warrior Bowie comes in from the Javanese jungle in a slouch hat to a prison camp where Tom Conti is trying to bridge the cultural gap between the Japanese gaolers and the English soldiers and officers in 1942. The Japanese actors are overly expressive, histrionic, unreal. Ryuichi Sakamoto plays the commandant and provides the tunes which sound a lot like the Vangelis classics of the era. (He later got a music Oscar alongside David Byrne and Cong Su for The Last Emperor, and died later in March.) IMDB tells me it was filmed in New Zealand and the Cook Islands; there are a few stray Kiwi accents. Jack Thompson provides the ham.

Roger Ebert: two-and-a-half stars. A clash of acting styles. Janet Maslin dug Bowie's efforts and not a lot else.