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In pre-war Japan, Sada (Eiko Matsuda) is a new girl at the brothel run by Toku (Aio Nakajima), a way of paying off her bankrupt husband’s debts. Toku’s husband Kichi-zo (Tatsuya Fuji) is sexually aggressive and soon he draws her into his bed – where at first frivolously but soon increasingly intensely, they serve each other sexually – sometimes even in full view of others. Their attachment becomes a sort of escape from their immediate surroundings as Sada becomes literally addicted to Kichi-zo and his penis. Their increasingly exotic lovemaking leads to sado masochism and to its ultimate conclusion – with a bizarre finale.

"The three scenes that were cut in the film’s previous release are restored. The film is now complete, but with its R rating and ‘high level sex scenes’, ‘violence’ and ‘adult themes’ warnings, should be free of misleading howls from people it might offend. They are free to stay away. But what of those whose interest is piqued by the infamy of the film, in which hardly a minute passes without some sexual activity, often actual not just simulated. Well, the story (based on fact) is one about sexual obsession that is certainly stranger than any fiction you may catch on a porn video. It is a good deal more interesting, too, both from the point of view of a social document about Japanese society in the 1930s and as a sex manual. Some critics have labelled this a masterpiece and while the film is cinematically excellent, I won’t go quite that far. In the Realm of the Senses takes us into territory that is - for most westerners - filled with taboos and complexities; everyone knows sex from a different angle, as it were, and our reaction to this film is driven by how each of us views sexuality. As a movie, it is a considerable way outside the standard menu of Anglo-American filmmaking we are used to – whether from the studios or independent filmmakers. It is in Japanese, which distances us a little from the characters, but it is so fluidly directed that it doesn’t matter much. It communicates very easily by pictures alone, subtitles notwithstanding. It is as graphic in its portrayal as a hard core film might be, but shot differently and with a different setting. The film is not made explicitly to be sexually arousing to voyeurs (though it may arouse you) but to tell a story. It is, at the same time, remarkable for its sweetness, which I mean in the sense that the sexual obsession portrayed is conveyed as a simple, pleasure-induced, and selfish activity without malice or evil intent. What’s even more remarkable is that it is Sada who drives and demands the sex, not the man. Indeed, Kichi-zo becomes her willing sex slave, passive and smiling with benign amusement at her clinging to his penis – even on the occasional walkabout. What makes Nagisa Oshima’s direction so effective is his ability to weave together the factual depiction of the sex act with the emotional and social elements, presenting us with the many self-contradictory aspects of love, sex and society. This is a unique film, and far more complex than watching people bonking."
Andrew L. Urban

"Recent popular movies - and TV shows and magazines - tend to approach sex as a mundane, not especially private issue: something that can be discussed and joked about like anything else, seamlessly bound into the fabric of ordinary life. Locally, an obvious recent example of this is Jonathan Teplitsky's film Better Than Sex, where the strategy felt a bit self-conscious: the film was perversely excited by talk about sex, while wanting to remain knowingly casual about sex itself. A far more erotic film, In The Realm Of The Senses - made in 1976 by Nagisa Oshima, a central figure in modern Japanese cinema - takes exactly the opposite tack. For the lovers here, sex is not a fact of life to be taken for granted, but an ever-increasing obsession that must be pursued to its end-point of madness and death. Forget the larger social world; even getting out of bed to pee is a distraction. Watching a porn film is always a strange (and estranging) experience, not just because these films can be sexually arousing (all kinds of films can be sexually arousing) but because they open up a different reality and a different space. On the one hand, this film is one long pornographic fantasy that plays out mainly in a few cloistered rooms. On the other, it's much closer to documentary than most fiction films, and its physical reality is much more complete. No parts of the body are off-limits; no acts are taboo. (Considering the violence of the ending, however, the distinction between what's simulated and what's real remains in force.) Whatever you think of the film's take on sexual passion - Oshima himself seems fascinated but ambivalent - it certainly offers a much more singular, intense experience than anything else screening just now. The newly-released print is excellent: the colours glow, especially the womb-like red that's often a backdrop to the action. Not to be missed."
Jake Wilson

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Ai no corrida

CAST: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima, Yasuko Matsui

DIRECTOR: Nagisa Oshima

PRODUCER: Anatole Dauman

SCRIPT: Nagisa Oshima


EDITOR: Patrick Sauvion, Keiichi Uraoka

MUSIC: Minoru Miki


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RE-RELEASE: February 22, 2001 (Sydney)

Japanese with English subtitles

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