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The Realm Of The Senses
cast: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aio Nakajima

director: Nagisa Oshima

98 mins (18) 1976
widescreen 1.66:1 Nouveaux VHS retail

RATING: 10+/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
In 1936 Japan, Kichi-zo (Tatsuya Fuji), a married man, and his maid Sada (Eiko Matsuda) enter into an obsessive sexual relationship, one that isolates them from society and can lead only to self-destruction. Made in 1976, Oshima's film is a landmark in the cinematic depiction of sexuality and the use of hardcore sexual material in an artistically valid context. The on-screen copulation is unfaked and shown in explicit detail; needless to say, anyone likely to be offended should avoid this film. But over the running time, Oshima's strategy pays off: by showing the sexual act in such detail and so many times, it ceases to be titillating. We move beyond the act and into what it represents in the life of the characters. Over time, Sada dominates the relationship to the point where, in search of the ultimate orgasm she strangles Kichi-zo and cuts off his penis. Days later, she was found wandering in a delirium, still carrying Kichi-zo's penis - a true story, from which the rest of the film sprang.
   By any standard, the direction and (believe it) the acting, is far superior to mere pornography. 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.
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