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Jan 15 (Reuters) - Japanese film director Nagisa Oshima, best known for the sexually explicit film "In the Realm of the Senses" and "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence", has died from pneumonia, aged 80.
The Hollywood Reporter said Oshima died on Tuesday in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, where he had been living since retiring from making movies.
The British Film Institute described Oshima as one of the major directors of the new wave of Japanese cinema in the 1960s whose politically charged films contrasted starkly with the stylistic conservatism of classical Japanese filmmaking.
A law graduate, he began his filmmaking career at the age of 26 with the 1959 movie "A Town of Love and Hope".
But his international notoriety was ensured in 1976 with "In the Realm of the Senses," a graphic portrayal of insatiable sexual desire between a hotel owner and one of his maids in 1930s Japan.
The film contained scenes of unsimulated sexual activity and had to be registered as a French production to bypass Japanese censorship laws. Its uncensored version remains unavailable in Japan.
Oshima won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978 for his film "Empire of Passion," another erotic tale.
He teamed up with British actor/singer David Bowie on the 1983 film "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," based on author Laurens van der Post's experiences as a prisoner of war in Japan during World War Two.
Oshima suffered a stroke in 1996 but recovered enough to return briefly to filmmaking, making his final film "Taboo" in 1999, a movie about gay samurai. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Osterman)