In the Realm of the Senses (1976) Poster

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You Will Feel Unease Whether You Appreciate The Film Or Not
aghaemi28 August 2014
Of all the categories of film ones depicting open sex are the most controversial. Trick people, steal their identities, wealth or children, make war, drop bombs or annihilate planets and it is all fine. Show two humans have sex for pleasure and millions will revolt. Although few deny that sex is exciting many assert it is not proper or art. Making the audience feel unsettled, uncomfortable and flinch is part of the intention here. Written and directed by Japan's Nagisa Ôshima's, 1976's In The Realm of Senses (Ai No Korida or 'love's/lover's bullfight') clinches the title as a risqué and explicit art film conceived to break taboos. Here is a film with full sexuality, nudity, penetration, S&M and more whose mission, for starters, is to push the boundaries, promote free speech and deconstruct obscenity. It is pornographic, but directed to be the opposite. Given the imagery and subject matter the film could easily be labelled pornography; however, the presence of respectable/mainstream/traditional cast, crew, studio and production values - not to mention anti-pornographic (pink eiga) film techniques - renders it enough of a something else to confuse most and push the boundary well back. Nagisa Ôshima saw obscenity and censorship as anathema to progress and indeed believed Japan has taken many steps backwards since the days of pleasure quarters, open prostitution in brothels, openness and individuality. His distaste for what he saw as the society's backward march, group-think and suppression of free speech is the driving force behind the feature. Indeed the old geisha who at one point entertains the main characters of this film, when the younger ones ended up refusing to return, proclaims "that's natural for a woman" to constantly have sex with a man. Oshima's statement in this regard sheds light on his intent. "The concept of "obscenity" is tested when we dare to look at something that we desire to see but have forbidden ourselves to look at. When we feel that everything has been revealed, "obscenity" disappears" He needed his powers of articulation because - and not for the first time - he would land in court in Japan defending his art. He would live to tell the tale, but to this day the film is only seen in Japan cut, censored and pixelated. The film unequivocally depicts one X-rated sexual act and thought after another. On a mission to make "obscenity disappear" one sees complete nudity, sex, an extramarital affair, S&M inclusive of pain inflicted with or without foreign objects (Kichizo: "it hurts but feels good"), exhibitionism, ingestion, prostitution, promiscuity/free sex, exposure of children and sex with the elderly. Having scratched items off its list the viewer is still ill prepared for the mutilation that follows. Such is the conviction of the writer/director and the ensemble around him. The film does not stop there. Caught in its crosshairs are Japan's pre-World War II militarization, Japanese traditional respect for one's seniors and tradition, male dominance in sex and pornography and crucially man's greater sexual appetite compared to a woman's. Any and all of these concepts would horrify the busybodies that constitute any society anywhere, but even more so in the Japan of 1976 with its induced promotion of group harmony and conformity. Based on a real story dating back to 1936 In The Realm Of Senses retells the story of Sada Abe (played by newcomer Eiko Matsuda) who bedded with her master (Kichizo Ishida played by Tatsuya Fuji) with their ending up stealing away from their lives in a Tokyo inn in Nakano while abandoning his wife. Scandal ensues when their indulgence intensifies amidst everything described above and more. The lovers completely give of themselves. Coincidentally, I had recently watched Akarui Mirai with Tatsuya Fuji who has had an acting career in Japan before and after this feature. It is worth noting this because In The Realm Of Senses features a range of established Japanese talent. Anywhere else in the world and this movie would not have attracted any takers. Apparently, many women had come to audition for a cinematic role, which involves full penetration. The same could not be said about the male talent. The director recounts many were worried about their phallus size or being able to perform on camera. Nonetheless, first there is Oshima's wife, the actress Akiko Koyama. She had volunteered to play Sada, although some speculate it was done to spur other actresses. She plays a geisha here. The old geisha is Kanae Kobayashi. She plays her actual real-life age. She was an established actress notable for the Zatoichi films. The old vagabond is Taiji Tonoyama whose over 200 credits include the brilliant Ningen No Joken (The Human Condition I). The innkeeper is played by established actress Aoi Nakajima herself the daughter of Masayuki Mori known for classics of cinema like Ugetsu or Rashomon. The crew was also an established team working in Kyoto on the set of many a Mizoguchi or Kurosawa film. It is an extraordinarily uninhibited and ground-breaking film. Yet, there are beautiful images of old-style Japanese rooms and decor, traditional outfits, melodies of the shamisen and muted but vivid colours throughout the film which is largely restricted to the indoors. The fox (kitsune) masks of the festival, the kites of the Children's festival and the bird dancer (mimicking the actual bird of earlier) colour the film Japanese further. Nonetheless, these are mere interludes amidst the subversive and often difficult viewing. Amazingly Oshima had sought out the real-life Sada Abe (Sada meaning 'chaste' in Japanese - although her name and the adjective have different Kanji) and obtained her permission to film In The Realm Of Senses. By this time she was ensconced in a Buddhist monastery. Whether one enjoys In The Realm Of Senses or not one has to tip his hat at the courageous and spirited Argos Films, the cast, crew, director, producer and Criterion video.
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Good News!!! It's Not For Children, Fools, People In The Bible Belt And Weak of Mind!!!
k-66834-2353719 August 2017
ALERT ALERT ALERT!!!!! WARNING HIGHLY COOL, MEANINGFUL AND PRECIOUS I expectedly watched this movie without even knowing what kind of movies... I absolutely encourage this type of movies for THE CHILDREN YOUTH AND ALL. Indeed this is definitely a Worth watchable movie (forgive my 'English, I come from a white trash area) except for the ones who are "AGAINST THE HUMAN BODY AND NATURE"... Please make sure you give this type of movie a rating.. and help others to fall for this kind of natural movies. Please make sure to watch it .. Let everybody watch this I have seen 120 minutes of the movie and its full of love, freedom, excitement, uniqueness and enjoyment by the male and female characters...

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Very sophisticated indeed
federovsky8 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Vague spoilers

Sada and Ishida share a passion for sex. She (Sada) is the aggressive one, possessive and inflammatory. He is relaxed and submissive, soaking it all up like an opium addict. Indeed, as they gradually spiral into depravity and self-destruction, the whole thing looks not unlike a drug addiction.

The film exercises the mind rather than the body – so yes, it's art. Is the sex meant to cause arousal? Sada looks sultry during the sex scenes – the pouting lips and dangling hair make it look attractive. Indeed, would there be any point in depicting it graphically if was meant to be dull? Nobody likes dry sex. On the other hand, neither does it play like a porno movie. The sex is intense rather than intimate, and often has disturbing undertones. Various onlookers who witness the couple's performance remain unconcerned at the sight of it. The sex therefore arouses the viewers' senses rather than the libido. This makes it a very sophisticated film indeed.

Whether it is immoral is, as usual, a subjective issue. Many will think so, many will not. A more useful debate is whether graphic sex is necessary to the story. Well, probably not. Other approaches may be just as effective. However, then it would be a different film and you probably wouldn't be here reading this now. Oshima knew that the gruesome fascination of the actual act would keep the film vital, and this amount of simulated sex would have been dreary indeed.

So then, is it successful? Well, partly. Once we have grasped that the film is a focused approach to a monomania, it is not difficult to become immersed in it. On the other hand, sex is essentially a repetitive thing and the film frequently finds itself on the rocks of repetition. But Oshima does not compromise, despite that he must know that each new scene is apt to bring forth a slight groan. This is not to say that the director suffered a major lapse of judgment, but probably most people would admit that substituting some of these scenes for others that provide more depth to the characters and their lives would have helped the narrative enormously.

It does largely hang together. Sada's descent into 'realm of the senses' (or the 'bullring of love' as the title may be read in Japanese) is depicted with perfect force and clarity. One does not doubt the couple are very much in love. Also, Sada's outrageous sexual appetite is genuine: in an early enigmatic scene she offers herself to a tramp, showing both her sexual 'sympathy' as well as her perverse tastes. The tramp is no match for her however, and his own member is cowed into submission. The first hint of her power.

When Sada is not having sex with Ishida (which is not often) she is in bed with a client, an old intellectual. Here she learns to connect sex with pain as an extension of her mental torment in missing her lover. Later, with Ishida, pain becomes an extension and an enhancement of sex itself.

Things then start to get bizarre. Sada dips food into her vagina before feeding it to Ishida while a geisha sits close by playing a shamisen. She makes him have sex with an old woman – Ishida cannot resist the challenge – and the conflicting emotions of horror and fascination that play on her face as she looks on is one of the most stunning scenes of the film. Eventually, even the geishas begin to scorn the couple's never-ending frolicking. This is a warning that all is not well, and the couple deal with it characteristically: she becomes aggressive, he laughs it off. However, we are now on a judgemental path. Things become increasingly intense and claustrophobic as the couple gradually experiment deeper and deeper in their ecstasy. Once they have reached the extremity of life, they start to flirt with death.

Ishida is the more complex character, urbanely playing along with Sada's demands while sometimes showing just a hint of doubt and restraint. Passion for him has a tender side (he says the old woman reminded him of his mother) and he gradually reveals a fatalism that suggests a vague depression. Finally, he yields himself completely to the Sada's suffocating passion which leads to his (now inevitable) destruction.

The role of children in the film, although slight, is perhaps unnecessary and regrettable, and the ending is marred by an abrupt stentorian voice-over which gives the impression that the film suddenly considers itself to be a documentary. Overall, however, this is an intense, beautifully made motion picture which craves indulgence and patience but is very rewarding, if only out of its sheer uniqueness.

For a film which contains 90% fornication, there is plenty to think about.
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It is one of the most gripping films to have ever handled sexual obsession…
Nazi_Fighter_David3 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"In the realm of Senses" is so wonderfully plotted and expertly acted that it almost has a dream-like effect… It's an erotic fantasy turned nightmare… It is the story of a sexual relationship between a young Japanese couple… At first lustful and erotic, they can't get enough… However, their experiments in sensationalism end in tragedy…

The film is flavored with strange yet genuinely humorous moments… For example, an older lady chance upon the lovers, and—for the fun of it—the young man initiates a ménage à trois… The incident proves to be so exhilarating that the old woman dies from exhaustion... The scene is played with such vivacity and intensity that—despite the fatal outcome—it does have a strange humorous overtone to it…

Director Nagisa Oshima developed with great care all the minor details of this affair without ever becoming overbearing or intending to teach...
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Overshadowed by the pointless "art" versus "porn" debate!
Infofreak16 October 2001
'Empire Of The Senses' is one of the least seen and much debated movies of the Seventies. "Least seen" because in many countries, including the one I live in, it has been banned, or only available in censored versions for many years. This movie divides people - those that like it hail it as ART, those that don't dimiss it snobbishly as PORN. Both camps are fooling themselves! 'Empire Of The Senseless' is BOTH.

Is it "serious"? Yes. Is it voyeuristic and prurient? Yes. Is it a masterpiece? Not quite. Is it worth watching? Very much so. In fact I'd say it was essential viewing for anyone interested in extreme or taboo-breaking movies.

The Seventies were the decade where the boundaries of screen sex, violence and disturbing imagery were repeatedly stretched. Peckinpah's 'Straw Dogs' and 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia', Bertolucci's 'Last Tango In Paris', Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver', Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange',were all milestones, and the the art movies of Herzog, Warhol, Pasolini, and Jodorowsky battled it out with the horror and exploitation of Russ Meyer, Dario Argento, John Waters,and David Cronenberg. Add to that the unexpected crossover success of 'Deep Throat' and the very existence of shockers like 'Ilse, She Wolf Of The SS' and 'Cannibal Holocaust', and what do you get? The artificial and meaningless divisions of genres, "high art" vs "trash", new ways of thinking vs new ways of making money, it was all on the table. For one brief decade it looked like a brave new world.

Then everything that was gained was lost - Spielberg and Simpson/Bruckheimer cleaned up (financially and aesthetically), and things have never been the same since. Watch 'Empire Of The Senseless' with that in mind. It may be flawed - you'll be alternatively fascinated and bored - but it is an important movie from an important period in movie history.
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Get Over It
Chris Bright28 July 2003
It's clear that a lot of people can't get past the explicitness of this film, which is a shame. I recall a lot of embarrassed giggling last time I saw it at the cinema. The art/pornography debate seems futile to me - this is a film about an obsessive sexual relationship/love affair and it tells it like it is. But it's about as far away from the likes of "Debbie Does Dallas 26" as you can get. The film is clearly serious in intent and there is a lot of beauty in it.

The subtle political content/context of the film is often overlooked - some of the few scenes shot outside the bedroom show groups of soldiers marching the other way from the direction our characters travel - and we all know where the rising Japanese militarism and nationalism of the 1930's led.

I think the best comparison is probably with a film like "Last Tango in Paris" which dealt with similar themes in a similar way - and was probably also pretty boring for those with a short attention span.
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mgangadeen15 November 2002
Nagisa Oshima has achieved what few other directors have managed in dealing with the very touchy subject of sex, in this instance, with sexual obsession. If you plan to watch this movie for a cheap sexual thrill, you will be most disappointed. Oshima has drawn from a real incident reported in a 1936 Japanese newspaper. The film centers around the love between two people expressed physically, graphically, into realms of the senses where few dare to tread. And with good reason. This is a very intense film as it progresses from the attraction of two people through increasing experimentation in an effort not only to express their passion but to try to find the outer most limits of passion itself. Oshima must have had something metaphorical in mind but the journey as chronicled in the film also has retained the feel of the specifics. It's quirkey and eccentric. The backdrop of the story is as interesting as the story itself. It is an amazing spectacle to observe, giving the viewer a perspective on Japanese life not usually rendered but often alluded to in some historical accounts. One wonders what this experience must have been like for the actors. Oshima has managed what I have always believed should be done in order to treat the subject of sex fully and without shrinking from its' less savory aspects. This is serious minded erotica and quite unlike anything else on screen. The only other film I can recall that compares at all is "Taxi Zum Klo" which was autobiographical and starred a number of actual people playing themselves.Obviously a different catagory in that regard from what is going on here, but both films draw much of their power from explicitly sexual scenes without compromising the integrity of the story being told. This is a film experience that should not be missed.
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Well, if nothing else, it has guts...
BoboPDE7 January 1999
Sure, everyone (or most everyone) has heard about "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" and its remarkable statement about human sexuality. However, it is unlikely that as many people have heard about this film, which in a totally different way makes perhaps as profound a statement about that topic.

In fact, if you see an uncut version of this film, you are in essence watching pornography. That is, you are watching incredibly graphic sexual content that simply would not be allowed in an American film. I won't spell it out for you, but I will say you know what they can't show you in American movies? This one shows that. And quite a bit more. This is not the type of sex you would see in a film like "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" or "Bliss" or some of the other decent American films about sex (though I can't think of any others). This is more like the sex shown in "Last Tango in Paris." The characters are so self-destructive and dangerous that the sex (one of the most inherent of all human practices) becomes an expression of their inhumanity. This is not easy stuff. But if you are willing to find an uncut version and experience the true power of this film, you may find yourself moved by the things you see.

This film blurs the line between pornography and art, and I believe that it stays one inch to the art side, but decide for yourself. Either way, I think that it is about time for American films to truly explore that distinction.
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A different kind of romance
agostino-dallas25 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is a little disturbing if one does not take the simple context of obsessiveness out of the picture. How should someone report this without showing what it is? How can someone portrait the crude aspect of war if not showing bullets ripping off human flesh like in Private Ryan? People tend to become uncomfortable with this movie because it has explicit sex in it. And sex shows something everyone has -- or at least should have: a male and female sex organs, aka penis and vagina. The sex is not the issue but the obsessiveness of them. And this movie might be boring because of it. It is not porn. Porn is cheap sex without any context, totally focused on performance like a gym class and not two people engaged in love, passion and of course the complement: sex. Take your prejudice thinking out of the way, this movie is more like art. It is old fashion too.
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Fantastic erotic cinema -- not for the weak
Jemiah19 April 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I'd been wanting to see this film for a long time, and I was honestly quite shocked by the explicit nature of the film -- it's sex, sex, and more sex. However, that's not all there is. This is a stylized re-telling of a true story of a disastrous, obsessive love relationship that culminated in the murder and mutilation of one of the partners. It explores the concept of sexual obsession as an expression of love far more fully and interestingly than any American film I've ever seen, and certainly is far more interesting than your usual modern X-rated flick. The actors, lighting, composition, etc. are all superb.
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Groundbreaking and unique. Yet strangely forgotten.
pillok-223 July 2000
It has been described as the Japanese Last Tango in Paris- a fair comparison. For both films explore in a truly raw and puissant manner the sexuality and psychology of sex. Ai No Corrida is an overwhelming experience, if for nothing else than its sheer audacity. But Corrida is so much more than sex. It delves into a shrouded netherworld of experimentation and pain. The world of De Sade.

Yet it is not turgid or depraved; it is not repugnant or diabolical. It is a poetic voyage into the unknown. It is about the search for pure fulfillment and pleasure. Nothing else in the world presented matters, reality is discarded. And thus the cause for the tragedy which ensues.

The two protagonists separate themselves from all that is real for they know that to find true happiness they must transcend all levels of reality and consciousness to a mighty plane. But such a place is transient. Yet the few glorious moments in such a world are worth any heartache that follows.

It was a film ahead of its time and I believe that it is still. The sparse few in the audience snickering and snorting confirmed this. It is one of those films whose reputation has preceded it and is so well known in Arthouse circles that disappointment may be said to be inevitable. But this film lives up to its reputation. For it is a truly explicit and daring film as it challenges the common perception that happiness is conformity. It proposes that true happiness is unobtainable in this world and to gain it you must sacrifice the flesh, to forward and improve the soul.

Yet this film made twenty-four years ago has been forgotten in the industry for where is its influence, its mark? Few films have used pornography in such a way since. And sex is still relegated to the flea-pit cinemas and backstreet shops. Arthouse films which depict sex, even those which do so explicitly, present it as the result of the character's exploration or development. As a curiosity, or as symbolic of the ascension of a particular player. Corrida uses sex to forward the plot, to illustrate the personalities of its protagonists, to symbolize everything in their fragile society. Sex is the plot development, sex is the key player and sex is the message. The sex takes centre stage. Each new scene is the result of sex, not vice versa.

This truly original concept has never taken hold. Why not? Surely the Arthouse circuit would realize the potential and milk it dry. And yet Corrida and a handful of others are the only films to take advantage.

This is why Ai No Corrida is a masterpiece. The acting, the direction, script etc... are all brilliant. But the ideas and concepts and invention are what makes Corrida one of the most superb films ever made. A film unknown except to those in the Arena. A film which took no hold, was as distant and mysterious as the world it depicted. A fleeting landmark that should have shook the world; but, maybe rightly, will always remain a forgotten treasure.
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Nagisa Oshima's legendarily explicit powerhouse!
framptonhollis14 July 2017
Banned in multiple nations around the world, infamous for its unapologetically graphic portrayal of extreme sexual desires and violent imagery, Nagisa Oshima's "In the Realm of the Senses" is a film both beloved and dreaded by many. It has sparked debate and disturbance in equal measure, and remains one of the most fiercely erotic films ever made.

Shot with vibrant colors and often eye popping set design, the film tells a simple and tragic tale of two lustful lovers engaged in a relationship fueled by unstoppable erotic desires. Fearlessly, the film manages to portray acts of masochism and sexual "perversion" in a manner so frequent and provocative there is no wonder why it has caused so much argument and controversy. This is, without a doubt, an EXTREME film that features everything from eating food from a woman's vagina to an elderly lady being f*cked to LITERAL DEATH! This film is not afraid to drag the viewer along, slowly lowering them into the pits of "sexual Hell". It portrays the passionate relationship in a psychologically tormenting manner, one that surpasses the bloodiest slasher flick in terms of true horror. This is not a "fun" film to watch, and is no doubt not for most audiences; but those that can handle and look past the strong and sometimes flat out gross content will find a gemstone of cinematic erotica, psychological drama, and unconventional horror.
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Oshima's Gift *some spoilers*
palpatine-110 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Nagisa Oshima is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, talents Japan has ever produced. Disgusted with boundaries and all forms of repression, his films find humanity in the most extreme situations and the evocation of the most extreme human emotions: the brutality of POW camps in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, the nihilism of hoodlums in Cruel Story of Youth. His gift, the ability to look without judgement, has allowed him to be one of the most consistent and interesting voices of the last 40 years. Ai no Corrida is another standout in his highly productive career, maybe even the feather in the cap.

I'm dissappointed that most reviewers can't look past the sexual content in this film, even its advocates. Everyone simply states their opinion on whether or not it is art or pornography, as if it were some kind of ideological testing ground, an experiment. This is in fact a disservice. Oshima is not interested in pushing buttons. He is not interested in making arguments for or against sex in the cinema. Ai no Corrida is refreshingly liberated from all such considerations: it simply is.

Based on true events, the story follows the relationship of a nobleman and a mentally unstable servant who falls in love with him. The attraction between them is so strange that soon they are inseperable, in more ways than one. While other servants look on, bringing them food, playing music and even sometimes participating, the two lie naked in bed having almost constant sex.

In the hands of a lesser director this would be disaster but Oshima never sensationalizes the material. This is not to say the film is not explicit; it is. It contains perhaps the most explicit sexual images in the history of cinema. However it is all presented with such care and beauty that it makes the viewing of sex and the act itself seem natural.

Few films have ever been this intimate. We almost never leave the bedroom. Even as the other servants express disgust or begin to gossip about the couple, so entrenched are we in their world that it phases us even less than it does them. The actors perform their own scenes and everything we see is real. Sada and Kichizo's relationship is physical in a way that few people here could ever understand. In the west we associate love and the development of character with words, but this has never been the case in Asia. For them it less about arousal than a complete need for the other person. By making their bodies one and achieving mutual pleasure they each achieve ultimate knowledge. Language is an afterthought.

In fact, I would almost recommend watching Ai no Corida without subtitles. The plain naturalism of the spoken Japanese achieves a kind of unintended camp when put into English text. This aspect is not aided by Argos video's TERRIBLE translation, which feels like it was written+ by a cheap dimestore erotic novelist who has fallen full prey to orientalism. The bare intensity of the performances is spoiled. Words are exaggerated and are in some cases just plain wrong. *spoiler* Even worse, they did not translate the Kanji which is written on Kichizo's body at the end and the way it features prominently into the shot leads me to believe something important has been missed. * end spoiler* Until a better translation is available, you might be better off knowing Japanese before watching this. I have no doubt that many people's anger over this movie is an unintended bi-product of these misguided efforts.

Oshima looks on in compassion as the "obsession" of this couple begins to grow in strange and potentially dangerous ways. Again contrary to what most people have said about the movie, I do not believe it is intended as a morality play. In the west it seems to me that any "art" which features explicit sex must be seen as a condemnation of that act in order to be accepted. I think Ai no Corrida has something different on its mind. There is a quick but essential scene in which the two discuss their parents: Kichizo's mother died when he was very young and Sada was orphaned before she was 3. Here we get a brief glimpse at the pathos beneath their relationship. They are afraid. To let up for even a second is oblivion.

To me it seemed as though Sada's final acts were not accidental. I feel there was a mutual acknowledgement of where their relationship was headed and they were both ready for it. These two human beings were already destroyed. They found a brief escape from pain in eachother and enjoyed that escape to its fullest extent, with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. Though there are moments of madness and cruelty during the escalation of their acts, the ending seems almost matter of fact. It is not performed in the heat of passion but slowly, with an air of regretful inevability, underscored by the use of closeups and Minoru Miki's haunting music.

Again, Oshima's gift: the ability to find humanity in the strangest of places. Ai no Corrida is not a film which condemns or exploits. Instead it is a profoundly sad, uncathartic evocation of deep loneliness. These two people needed eachother so much that they would rather be consumed by that need than continue "normal" life in a "normal" world. Disturbing? Yes, but isn't everything?
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A story about sexual obsession.
edwjoolee28 February 2002
This movie was quite a shocker when my friend and I rented it a few years back. It was clear from the first explicit sex scene that this movie was going to be different from the types of movies my friend and I were generally used to.

After having viewed it recently again, and this time focusing more on the intrinsic value of the film rather than just on the shocking images alone like I had the first time I viewed it, I was surprised to find a dark, disturbing psychological drama about sexual obsession that really held my interest. It is interesting to note how the male and female leads, who both seem emotionally sterile to the world around them and are barely communicative towards one another in the traditional and normal sense, are inseparably bonded by a strange and sexual attraction they have for eachother. It is a fatal attraction of the darkest kind I've ever witnessed in a movie.

This movie is definitely not for all tastes or who are easily offended by graphic scenes of sex. But for those adventurous souls looking for something different and interesting, I recommend this film. Nagisa Oshima's other films of interest are Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and the recent Taboo.
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One of the most extraordinary films I have ever seen
Alexander Chow-Stuart17 March 2006
There is nothing in cinema that I can think of that compares to In The Realm Of The Senses. It is in a class of its own: beautiful, tender, sensual, erotic, horrifying. I can still remember the shock of seeing it perhaps twenty years ago: not just at the explicitness of the images, in every sense, but at the extraordinary passion and honesty of the two central performances, and Oshima's direction.

Despite the violent nature of the film, and the fact that it is based on a true event, I cannot think of another film that so truly captures the intensity of any emotional and sexual relationship at some point in its incarnation. If you have ever felt love and desire at their most powerful - the wish not to possess someone, but to become part of them and share with them how they experience the world - then you will recognize that feeling here. While certainly not a map for any relationship you might wish to have (I pray!), this film says more about what it means to be a man or woman than any other film I have seen.
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The Bullring of Love
ButaNiShinju27 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
By now everyone knows this film is about a sexually-obsessed woman who strangles and then cuts off her lover's willie (the extent to which her lover shared in the extremity of her obsession is somewhat debatable...). That notwithstanding, the film is well-acted, visually stylish, and manages to convey a genuine feeling for the passion which drove the characters. It's also succinct (at 96 minutes) and has some fabulous sex scenes.

As others have commented, the real-life case of 'Abe Sada' (Abe is the family name) was very well known in Japan, occurring as it did almost 40 years before Oshima made this film. There are at least two other cinematic versions of the events. If anything, reality was even a bit stranger than fiction: in the real-life case Abe was arrested whilst carrying around the severed member in her kimono sash. I saw a photograph of her once, taken just after her arrest: you have never seen a more haunted-looking woman.

The original Japanese title of the film is 'Ai no Corrida,' 'Ai' means 'love', but, interestingly, 'Corrida' is not a Japanese word at all: it's a Spanish word meaning 'dash' 'sprint' or 'spurt', and is most often used in the expression 'Corrida de Toros' -- i.e. bullfight -- strongly alluding to the brutal (and inevitable) death of the bull at the end. This puts quite a different complexion on the theme of the film than does the Western distributor's title of 'In the Realm of the Senses' which seems to imply sensual pleasure which has perhaps unintentionally got out of hand.

Oshima's stock-in-trade has always been the 'shocking' film, usually made with the aim of confronting 'bourgeois' sensibilities or an accepted view of society or history. In the 1960's they were more of the socio-political variety (e.g. 'The Sun's Burial,' 'Cruel Story of Youth'); but the success of this film firmly added the sexual element to his repertoire; you can see this continues even up to the recent film 'Gohatto.' In my mind, however, 'Ai no Corrida' is the only one of his films that really works.
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Erotic movie examines its society
Dave from Ottawa9 February 2008
With his landmark film The Ceremony, Nagisa Oshima became one of Japanese filmdom's leading social critics as he dissected the logic behind ritual suicide, arranged marriages and other activities considered acceptable 'traditional' behavior. Here he examines the story behind a famous Japanese scandal - a prostitute was found wandering the streets of Tokyo out of her mind following the death of her lover by erotic asphyxiation - in terms of what is considered 'acceptable' Japanese social behavior. The principals engage in obsessive sexual activity, and allow the addictive and dangerous aspects of their relationship to get out of hand precisely BECAUSE it was considered so unhealthy and immoral by Japanese standards. In a society in which all sexual activity is viewed as shameful, shame no longer mediates behavior. Limits become meaningless. The film itself is colorfully made, with excellent period detail and production design, and the actors are attractive. The structure is that of an erotic novel, as game playing, obsession and danger escalate to a fitting point-of-no-return climax. It is much better and more socially relevant than similar American films such as Nine 1/2 Weeks.
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An obsessive tale of love based on a true story
Jessica Carvalho8 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
''Ai no corrida'' is a polemic movie that was banned and also censored by many different countries, including the Japan itself, where strict censorship laws would not allow the film to be completed properly, so the the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for processing and editing.

The movie is based on a true story that happened in the 30's, where Sada Abe erotically asphyxiated her lover, Kichizo Ishida, during sex, and them cut it out his penis and testicles to walk on streets of Tokyo with his organs in her hand.

Many of the sexual scenes between the actors are real, by the way.

The plot: Abe Sada works as a maid in a hotel. She is an ex prostitute. When Abe meets the hotel owner Kichizo, they begin to have an intense affair, and while the time passes, Abe starts to have an obsessive behavior towards Kichizo to the point that she even threatens to kill him. The things between them are going to reach tragical consequences near the end.
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A powerful artistic film about 'the love of love'.
serum10828 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
These two people representing the extreme examples of the masculine and feminine psyche lovingly devour each other into a downward spiral. The film gives you a voyeuristic look at love, and a couple controlled by it. From the beginning to the end, Oshima paints the emotional, sensually charged roller coaster decent into hell visually without the brakes. The further they pave their sexual adventures the further they travel into the point of no turning back.

Both forces essentially fighting till the death or at least holding on for dear life. This film is basically taking love and putting it on heroin. It is showing us the dependency, the loneliness, the pain, the absurdities, the withdrawal, the addiction of it. The film works at desensitizing the senses. This film is forcing us to give our definition of love.

The film demands us to look past the themes of the average love story. While the censors are busy looking for their scissors, the film nudges the viewer to begin questioning the definition of love/sex. The director tries to answer with rhetorical questions about the event. What could possess a couple to have sex for a whole week for it only to lead up to a severed penis? How did they get to that point? Wouldn't it have gotten kind of boring after awhile?

The actual sex acts shock the average viewer at first yet the longer we stay along for the ride the less we pay attention to it. Is sex about love or is love about sex?

Both. Yet I wouldn't call this pornography, nor would I call Hollywood love stories 'love stories'. Pornography implies the act of sex without feelings. This film fails to live up to that definition by showing us more than a small share of emotion behind all the grunts and moans. Sex is merely the background vehicle to this Japanese monster truck of a journey. Oshima wants you to walk away without any doubts at what happened during that week.

Getting over the skin of the fruit and right to the juice of it you will find that after digesting it, that this film is essentially a commentary about the bounds of love. Probably tasting something like durian.
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a film about unhealthy sexual obsession
julie keilty16 February 2002
This film brought down boundaries with the U.K.censors. This film was finally passed by the British censors in the early 90's. It explores every aspect of unhealthy sexual obsession. From being "clingy" to someone, to being bored with someone to the extent that you try to excite the situation with dangerous actions i.e. strangulation games. Performance wise the film is first rate, especially the performance from Tatsuya Fuji, probably giving the performance of his life. Director Nagisa Oshima is a man,even to this day,who is not afraid of controversey. His latest film Gohatto(Taboo)is testament to that,focusing on gay samurai,which is a controversial subject in itself. In the Realm of the Senses is a very rarely seen film. If you ever get the chance to check it out, do so. It is an unforgettable and shocking experience.
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It Is Glorious
cmjuhsin25 November 2017
Whether this film is porn or not depends on your definition of that genre. It clearly depicts sexuality, nudity and penetration of various sorts. if that suffices for the film to be pornographic then In The Realm Of Senses is porn. If the genre needs exploitation, sex for the sake of sex and entertainment only then this film is not pornographic.

Either way, and here is the important point, the film has an important point to make. There are people, actions and rules in our world that do not deserve respect, adherence and all these matters are subjective and subject to individual choice. Just because I believe in one thing it does not follow that someone else must live their life according to that point-of-view. All options are on the table.

In The Realm Of Senses clearly tries to insult and shock as many people as possible to make a point. The point is well made and the majority of viewers (or would-be viewers) would be aghast at the work. It is the beauty of the film. As for the nudity, inn, infidelity and the geisha those are actually incidental to the story. yet, I say if you enjoy them then more power to you.
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Fatal attraction, Japanese style.
BA_Harrison20 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) works as a maid in a hotel where she begins a torrid sexual relationship with the married owner, Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji). As the steamy affair progresses, Sada becomes obsessed with her lover to such an extent that she threatens to emasculate him should he ever sleep with his wife again, a promise she eventually keeps (but only after throttling him with her belt).

Released on DVD by both the BFI and Criterion, and included in the book '1001 Films To See Before You Die', In The Realm Of The Senses is clearly highly regarded by many film experts who see it not as pornography but as an important work of erotic art. I'm not convinced that the film is anything other than a case of flagrant exploitation—beautifully shot with fine performances, but still no more deserving of critical acclaim than your average sex-fuelled pink movie.

Watch it before you die, by all means, but don't expect anything more thought provoking than 109 minutes of repetitive unsimulated shagging, with a little bit of fun with a boiled egg, some winkie-tugging, and a gory finale for good measure.
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100 minutes of beautiful boning
wandereramor18 March 2012
For better or for worse, there aren't a lot of movies out there like In the Realm of the Senses. Well, there's porn, but this isn't really porn -- it lets the ugliness as well as the beauty of sex shine through, and through all the cinematographic haze it seems considerably more real than depictions of sex in even "regular" movies.

There's a narrative here, told through the slowly-unfolding patterns of debauchery, one of a terrifying spiral of hedonism. In the end, despite all of its explicitness, it's more of a conservative cautionary tale than anything else.

What makes In The Realm of the Senses work as well as it does is the beautiful images and almost mystical pacing of director Oshima. I won't lie and say that there aren't times when the film is tedious and even dull, or that its final conclusion is extremely profound. But it's one hell of an experience, and a disgusting gonzo film that needed to be made. It's one of those films that you don't watch, you live through.
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gavin694230 November 2015
A passionate telling of the story of Sada Abe, a woman whose affair with her master led to a sexual obsession which then came to a violent end.

This film is easy to dismiss as "glorified porn" or something of that nature. Indeed, it tends to go beyond what we call soft-core... there is no hiding the male anatomy and some acts are rather explicit. And yet, I never really felt like the film was "dirty" or gratuitous.

There is something to be said about love, sex, obsession and the life of a geisha. Certainly in western society we find it hard to believe a prostitute or porn star could have a meaningful relationship or be in love. What of the Japanese, who view prostitution somewhat differently? This is an interesting exploration.
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