Based on a true case involving a woman in 1936 who was found wandering the streets of Tokyo carrying her dead lover's severed penis, Nagisa Oshima's sexually graphic, and extremely disturbing, IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, became notorious when it was seized by U.S. Customs officials in
1976, postponing its showing at the New York Film Festival.
In 1936 Japan, a nymphomaniac ex-prostitute named Sada (Eiko Matsuda) goes to work at an inn owned by Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) and his wife. Sada and Kichizo begin an affair and he eventually leaves his wife and runs away with Sada. They move into a geisha house in the red-light district, where
their frequent bouts of sex, often outdoors and in front of others, shocks even the other prostitutes. Needing money, Sada has sex with an ex-client, an elderly man who was her school principal, and Kichizo has sex with the geisha house's fat maid (Kazue Tomiyama) while Sada is gone. As their
sexual practices become increasingly intense and bizarre, the couple begin experimenting with partial strangulation as a method of sexual stimulation.
The iconoclastic Oshima made IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES with the intention to shock and shatter taboos. With its explicit and graphic shots of actual penetration and fellatio, there is no doubt that the film is pornographic in the broadest definition of the term, although whether it was made with
the intention to arouse sexual desire is quite doubtful. It's certainly a completely honest film, fearlessly showing what others whose subject is sex, only hint at, but whether or not the photographic depiction of real sex can be transformed into art by a distinguished filmmaker, by placing it
into the context of a metaphorical story of obsession and domination, is highly debatable. There is no doubt that Oshima is a serious and talented artist, as evidenced by many of his other films, and in the surreal qualities of certain scenes here. On a traditional level, the film is visually
quite beautiful, with delicate and sensitive use of color, composition, decor, and music, and as the lovers, Tatsuya Fuji and Eiko Matsuda give remarkably natural performances, under the circumstances, but the repeated scenes of them having sex become numbing and eventually laughable, and the
horrifying ending is almost impossible to watch.
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- Released: 1976
- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on a true case involving a woman in 1936 who was found wandering the streets of Tokyo carrying her dead lover's severed penis, Nagisa Oshima's sexually graphic, and extremely disturbing, IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, became notorious when it was seized… (more)