Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Nagisa Oshima, director of In The Realm Of The Senses, Empire Of Passion and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, died Tuesday of pneumonia in a hospital near Tokyo. He was 80. Oshima was in the vanguard of the new wave of Japanese filmmakers who emerged in the 1960s and was noted for tackling social issues such as capital punishment, racism and homosexuality. He worked initially for the Shochiku Co. but quit after the distributor withdrew in Japan his 1960 film Night And Fog — an indictment of the disunity among the country’s left-wing movement — three days after its release. Oshima gained international attention with the sexually explicit In the Realm Of The Senses (1976), the story of an affair between a married man and a geisha, which stirred public indecency debates in Japan and elsewhere. Two years later he won best director award at the Cannes Film Festival for the follow-up, Empire Of Passion. His only English-language film, 1983’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, was set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and starred David Bowie, Takeshi Kitano and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. The satirical Max Mon Amour (1986) starred Charlotte Rampling as a diplomat’s wife who has an affair with a chimpanzee she installs in their flat — to her husband’s chagrin.
Oshima suffered a stroke which all but ended his career in 1996. His final film was 1999’s gay-themed Gohatto (aka Taboo), set in a 19th century school for samurai. His other credits included Death By Hanging (1968), the saga of a young Korean man who is executed for the rape and murder of two Japanese girls and based on a real-life case, and The Ceremony (1971), which chronicled Japan’s history from the end of the World War II, represented by a large and influential family.