Geisha

Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon.com]

Definition

Geisha are traditional Japanese artist-entertainers. The word geisha literally means "art person" or "artisan." Geisha were very common in the 18th and 19th centuries, and are still in existence today, although their numbers are dwindling.

The geisha tradition evolved from the taikomochi or hkan, similar to court jesters. The first geisha were all male; as women began to take the role they were known as onna geisha (Ůܿ), or "woman geisha." Geisha today are exclusively female.

Characters for Geisha, lit. "Art person".Geisha were traditionally trained from young childhood. Young girls were often bought from poor families by geisha houses who took responsibility for raising and training them. During their childhood they worked first as maids, then as assistants to the house's senior geisha as part of their training and to contribute to the costs of their upkeep and education. This is part of a very long tradition of this form of training which still exists in Japan, where a student lives at the home of a master of some art, starting out doing general housework and observing and assisting the master, and eventually moving up to become a master in their own right (see also irezumi). This training often lasts for many years.

They began studying a wide range of arts from a young age too, including musical instruments (particularly the shamisen) and traditional forms of singing, traditional dance, tea ceremony, flower arranging (ikebana), poetry and literature. By watching and assisting senior geisha, they became skilled in the complex traditions surrounding selecting, matching, and wearing kimono, and in various games and the art of conversation, and also in dealing with clients.

Once a woman became an apprentice geisha (a maiko) she would begin to accompany senior geisha to the tea houses, parties and banquets that constitute a geisha's work environment. To some extent, this traditional method of training persists, though it is by necessity forshortened, since most geisha now begin their training in their late teens.

Geisha are not prostitutes. Although in the past the right to take their virginity (an event called a mizuage) was sold, they were not obliged to have sex with any customers, even the men who paid dearly for their virginity.

Modern geisha are no longer bought by or brought into geisha houses as children. Becoming a geisha is now entirely voluntary, and women who are not the children of geisha by necessity begin their training, which remains extremely long and difficult, at much older age. The practice of mizuage is a thing of the past. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha [Oct 2004]

Ai no corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima

    " Nagisa Oshima is my master," she says. "Seeing his films showed me that I was working in the right direction. He pushes his characters to the edge of the abyss." In particular, Breillat has been inspired by Oshima's 1976 Cannes prizewinner In the Realm of the Senses, not least because its unprecedentedly graphic scenes of sexual passion stirred up censorship rows and watch committees across the world [...]. --Catherine Breillat

    "Well, it's a simple enough story," she starts briskly. "A man meets a woman and seems to conquer her and they start to fuck C they're bound together by sex, it's their way of escaping reality. But the more they [do this], the clearer it becomes that the woman is the stronger. The man is drawn in until he has no hope of retreat, he's imprisoned C it's like Napoleon in Russia. --Catherine Breillat, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2003/07/19/bfmof19.xml

    Nagisa Oshima's sensational, 1976 film concerns a woman (Eiko Matsuda) whose obsessive sexual relationship with her husband (Tatsuya Fuji) crosses the line from passion into the territory of life and death. One of the most sexually explicit films ever to play in mainstream theaters (though it did run into legal trouble both in the U.S. and Japan), it has an air of palpable doom, suggesting that sex can be a doorway to suicide. Lest this sound like grunge-era noodling over dreams of self-destruction, be assured that the Kyoto-born Oshima (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) takes a somewhat formal, middle-aged perspective on the conjunction of various mysteries of existence. --Tom Keogh for amazon.com, Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon.com]

    In the UK, In The Realm Of The Senses (aka: Ai No Corrida) was shown under club-membership conditions until 1991, when the BBFC granted it a cinema certificate with one small alteration replicated on this video release. During a scene where Sada plays with two naked children, she reaches out and pulls at the little boy's penis. This scene is vital in that it is the first indication that Sada has become deranged, but it's problematic in that it falls foul of the Child Protection Act (which does not allow context as a defence). With Oshima's permission, the then BBFC Secretary James Ferman optically zoomed in on the image, so that the hand/genital contact was out of shot. But the rest of the film is intact, as it should be. Oshima's film is one of a kind. ---Gary Couzens, http://www.videovista.net/

    Oshima, born in Kyoto, is most famed for his provocative 1976 film Ai no corrida (Realm of the Senses), a film based on a true story of fatal sexual obsession in 1930s Japan. Oshima, a prolific critic of censorship and his contemporary Akira Kurosawa's humanism, was determined that the film should feature hardcore pornography and thus the film's undeveloped film cans had to be transported to France to be developed and an uncensored version of the movie is still unavailable in Japan. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagisa_Oshima [Oct 2004]

A Woman Called Sada Abe (1975) - Noboru Tanaka

    In 1936 a geisha named Abe Sada was found wandering around the streets of Kyoto with a knife, a rope, and a severed penis in her hands. The latter turned out to belong to her ex-lover Kichi, the rich owner of the hotel where she worked. The two had just spent a month together locked in a violent and passionate amour fou, barely emerging from their hotel room. As Sada's love became more obsessive, she began to take to throttling him to maintain his passion, eventually seeking to possess him entirely.

    Reams have been written about Nagisa Oshima's groundbreakingly explicit rendition of this bizarre true story, In the Realm of the Senses (Ai No Koriida, 1976), which became a bit of a cause clbre upon its release outside of Japan due to an involvement with Frenchman Anatole Dauman (who later produced Shuji Terayama's Fruits of Passion) that allowed hardcore scenes to be shot and shipped out to France for development, thus bypassing Japan's censorship laws. Regardless of the art-versus-pornography debate surrounding Oshima's film, for all the lofty intentions of its makers most people are more likely to remember it for confronting them with their first close-up onscreen blowjob, not to mention the gory emasculation at its climax. Few people outside of Japan, however, are aware that Abe Sade's tale had already made it to the screen a year earlier produced as part of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno line of high-class erotica. --http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/abesada.shtml [Oct 2004]

  1. A Woman Called Sada Abe (1975) - Noboru Tanaka [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    The young and beautiful Sada Abe (Junko Miyashita), the daughter of a rich merchant, is banished for losing her virginity after being raped by a college student. Sada wanders the city, becoming a geisha and eventually meeting Kichizo (Hideaki Ezumi), a posh restaurateur who falls under her spell. Together, they embark on a week-long sexual escapade filled with dangerous obsessions. Their complete descent into each others desires culminates in a shocking crime of passion which captures the city's headlines. Based on a real event from 1936, "A Woman Called Sada Abe" is a compelling adult drama from Japan's famed Nikkatsu Studios and director Noboru Tanaka.

    This is the earlier version of the same true story used for the highly-acclaimed and controversial In the Realm of the Senses (Ai No Koriida 1976). This version is bloodier but less sexually explicit. Whereas the death of Ishida was the climax of Oshima's film, here it happens halfway through and then the focus is completely on the grief and longing of Sada Abe for her dead lover. High caliber acting and photography give this shocking story a sheen of artistic quality lacking in most erotic filmmaking. --eegah-3 via imdb.com [Jul 2004]

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