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In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
Related: Anatole Dauman - 1976 in film - Nagisa Oshima - Japanese cinema - mainstream erotic films
Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
In the Realm of the Senses belongs to that yet-to-be-named category of films which are very explicit but at the same time oh so unerotic (a second example is Carnal Knowledge). The title reflects the intellectual sources that effected the thought of the director. The Japanese title is inspired by works of Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille. The widespread Western title is derived from a Roland Barthes book on Japan; The Empire of Signs. The "In" in the English title is actually a mistake. The designer of the English-language materials for the film assumed that the "in" (en) in the French-language production material was not referring to the stars who were in the film, but was a part of the title of the film itself. Mistake or not, the name stuck, and other versions of the film use the English naming convention for the film. [Jan 2007]
In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no Kor?da, lit. Bullfight of Love) (Fr: L'empire des sens) is a Japanese film from 1976 directed by Nagisa Oshima.
SummaryThe film is a fictional and extraordinarily sexually explicit treatment of a true story from the 1930s in Japan, the Abe Sada story. It garnered great controversy during its release; while it was intended for mainstream release, it contains scenes of unsimulated sexual activity between the actors (Fuji Tatsuya and Matsuda Eiko, among others).
PlotTokyo, 1936. Abe Sada (Matsuda) is a former prostitute who now works as a maid in a hotel. She meets the hotel's owner, the sexually-omnivorous Ishida, and the two begin to have an intense affair that consists of little other than sexual experiments, drinking, and various self-indulgences. Abe's possessiveness and obsessive behavior with Ishida grows to the point that she threatens to kill him if he so much as looks at another woman (including his own wife). Their mutual obsession escalates to the point where he finds he is most excited by being strangled during lovemaking, and he soon gives her permission to kill him in this fashion. She then severs his genitals and writes "Sada and Kichi, now one" in blood on his chest.
ThemesThe film does not so much examine Abe's status as a folk hero in Japan (the film A Woman Called Sada Abe explores this theme more directly) but rather the power dynamics between Abe and Ishida. Many critics have written that the film is also an exploration of how eroticism in Japanese culture is often morbid or death-obsessed. Oshima was also criticized for using explicit sex to draw attention to the film, but the director has stated that the explicitness is an integral part of the movie's design.
ControversyStrict censorship laws would not allow the film to be completed properly in Japan. To get around this, the production was officially listed as a French enterprise, and the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for processing and editing. At its premiere in Japan (and in all prints of the film there ever since), the sexual activity has been optically censored.
The film was initially banned at its premiere at the New York Film Festival, but later screened uncut; a similar fate awaited the film when it was to be released in Germany.
Many individual scenes have been cut from the film for the sake of local censorship. The BBFC granted the film an "18" certificate (suitable for adults only), leaving all of the sexual activity intact, but ordered that a shot showing a prepubescent boy having his penis pulled as punishment be optically reframed so that the act itself was not shown. The film is, however, available in completely uncut editions in the United States, the Netherlands, and several other territories. The film is still banned entirely in Ireland.
The titleThe title reflects the intellectual sources that effected the thought of Oshima. The Japanese title is inspired by works of Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille. The widespread Western title is derived from a Roland Barthes book on Japan; The Empire of Signs. The "In" in the English title is actually a mistake. The designer of the English-language materials for the film assumed that the "in" (en) in the French-language production material was not referring to the stars who were in the film, but was a part of the title of the film itself. Mistake or not, the name stuck, and other versions of the film use the English naming convention for the film. -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Realm_of_the_Senses [Jan 2005]
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 – 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 – 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 célèbre 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]
- 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]
Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon.com]
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