In this essay, I examine some key elements of 1983 iconoclastic classic Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, directed by ‘shima Nagisa, that potentially prevent it from being recognized under the rubric of queer cinema. Focusing on the narratives of failure and shame, I point to the ways in which ‘shima's film unsettles and shatters the processes of subject formation of potentially homosexual characters, particularly that of Captain Yonoi. I also suggest the possibility of Merry Christmas as being instrumental in leading audiences continuously to ponder the nature of queer desire. As one of the first visual depictions deploying the discourse of homo-eroticism within the contexts of cross-cultural contact between Japan and the West, I argue that the film continues to be "off-genre," dis-located and left fleeting somewhere among the peripheral fringe of that genealogy we now accept as Japanese queer cinema.
genre, queer, gay, cinema, shame, homosexual, homosocial, Japan