A highly unusual war movie with as many detractors as fans, this first 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. In the face of the camp's brutal conditions and treatment of prisoners, Bowie's character earns the respect of the camp commandant (played by Japanese pop star Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also wrote the score) through his own enigmatic rebellion. 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. --Tom Keogh
During World War Two, English soldier Jack Celliers (David Bowie) arrives in a Japanese POW camp after an exhausting trial. Yonnoi (musician Ryuichi Sakamato, who also wrote the memorable soundtrack), the new camp commandant, becomes obsessed with breaking the new inmate's spirit, whilst Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence (Tom Conti) tries to mediate between them. As two different codes of honour clash, Yonnoi forces a confrontation with Celliers that brings them to the point of no return.