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Monday, January 20, 2014

In the Realm of the Senses (1976) d. Nagisa Oshima

Eiko Matsuda plays the sexually obsessed Sada Abe in Oshima's explicit In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Movie Review
In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
 d. Nagisa Oshima
Criterion Collection #466

  Another film watched from the last slot of my queue on Hulu Plus, In the Realm of the Senses is a perennial favorite on the Criterion Collection Hulu Plus channel most likely because it is chock-a-block full of enough explicit sex to make a hardened viewer of internet pornography blush.  How full of explicit sex is this 1976(!) Japanese film about the sexually obsessive relationship between the owner of a tavern and his ex-prostitute (but still horny) lover?  Well, in the first 30 minutes there is a blow job that is shot matter of factly and ends with him coming in her mouth.  The main couple is shown having explicit sex for over half of the film.  The main male character also more or less explicitly rapes 3 other women, employees of the various inns where they shack up.  By "explicit" I mean we watch him rape the other women.  I mean I don't know if what happens is rape in the context of 1930s Japan, where In the Realm of the Senses takes place, but that's what I saw.

  It's useful as we all wait for Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac to hit the streets to contemplate that Nymphomaniac is not the first film to use pornographic techniques to produce something other than pornography.  And although In the Realm of the Senses is shot without any preachy moral overtones, the super-dark ending, with the girl strangling the guy with a ligature and then chopping off his penis with a knife, makes it clear (if it wasn't totally clear already) that the relationship is not healthy.

  By the end, the sex has become deadening, and her obsession with sex comes off as the product of a deeply disturbed mind.  There is a scene near the end where we watch her try to have sex with his clearly flaccid penis that can't help but leave a distinct impression in the mind of the viewer.  Not an easy film to shake off, In the Realm of the Senses will stay with you over time.

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