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Foreign Films > In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Aug 22, 2009 06:58PM) (new)

Phillip | 10700 comments brimming with a bevy of SPOILERS...

In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)

Here is a film with a notorious reputation that proved difficult for director Nagisa Oshima to bring to the screen. The film depicts a sexual obsession that leads to psychological decay, murder, and mutilation. Knowing Japanese censors would have a field day with this film, Oshima turned to a French production company to help him realize this dazzlingly beautiful narrative, which has remained a cult-classic since its release in 1976. Various versions/prints distributed in Japan have remained censored, the film was banned in America after its premiere at the NY Film Festival, and it wasn't until recently that the Criterion Collection released a beautifully restored complete print.

Eiko Matsuda (in an outstanding performance - her first on-screen role) plays Sada Abe, a former prostitute who is now working at a hotel as a maid. One day she happens upon a man making love to his wife in their quarters and she becomes fascinated with him. Tatsuya Fuji plays Kichi, the object of her desire. They initiate an affair that causes him to leave his wife and share a long sequence of sexual experimentation.

It's hard to think of a film that has such a beautiful image and design sense. Every movement is nuanced with abundant colors and tones and the sexuality in the film is as equally unrestrained. There is no hinting at what the characters are doing....the sex is graphic (giving censors the ammunition to blast In the Realm of the Senses as a work of pornography), but the artistic execution and the themes of obsession and catharsis are complex and finely developed.

Sada's obsession with her lover begins to turn to jealousy when she believes he wants to return to his wife. She controls him through acts of bondage, and directs him to engage in sex with an aging geisha. His movements are the cues of her domination and in the final act of manipulation, she strangles him (which he willingly submits to) during their final act of love and castrates his corpse. She writes their final epitaph (sada and kichi: the two of us forever) on his chest in blood.

This is one you probably want to watch when the kids are outside playing. In the Realm of the Senses is an ecstatic exploration into sexuality, desire and liberation from the confines of traditional society. The acting is superb, there's never a moment when you question the motives or the behavior of the characters.

message 2: by Mawgojzeta (new)

Mawgojzeta Here is my story: I rented the movie from my library.

This is the library description: "Based on the real incident of Abe Sada. An ex-prostitute works in a hotel where she begins an obsessive affair with the owner."

Other than that, I knew nothing about the movie. I had heard it was good, but did not know details.

Usually I watch foreign films with my son. That day he was not home. I am so glad. I stressed to the librarian, when I returned the movie, that the online description needs to be expanded to forewarn renters of the graphic nature of the film. It was never updated. Oh, well.

Absolutely wonderful movie, after getting past my initial shock.

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10700 comments see?
you should always read my reviews first!
it says: you should probably watch this one while the kids are outside playing....

now who are you going to or the library?

just kidding, of course, but i'm glad you liked it!

message 4: by Mawgojzeta (new)

Mawgojzeta I watched it several years ago - haha!

I wish I had read your review first.

message 5: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10700 comments cheers!

yeah, i saw it on the big screen many years ago (in the early 80's). seeing it again with this new gorgeous remastered print was a real treat.

message 6: by Bibliomantic (new)

Bibliomantic Oshima also made 'In the Realm of Passion'. The titles are similar, and he covers some of the same territory as in 'Senses', but 'Passion' felt like a half-hearted effort.

message 7: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10700 comments i don't know that one. there was a recent oshima retrospective where i live, and i was able to catch about seven of his features: all beautifully filmed, wildly different in style and tone, all unforgettable.

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