Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tatsuya Fuji, Eiko Matsuda, Aoi Nakajima, Yasuko Matsui, Meika Seri
Written by: Nagisa Oshima
Directed by: Nagisa Oshima
MPAA Rating: NC-17
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 104
Date: 05/15/1976

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Sense' and Instability

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Japanese director Nagisa Oshima put himself on the map with this sex film, though it's more sensational than it is artistically interesting. A man, Kichi (Eiko Matsuda), sleeps with a prostitute, Sada (Tatsuya Fuji). They become obsessively devoted to one another, to the point of staying indoors for days, engaging in various sexual acts. Their passion with one another increases to the point that regular life no longer matters. Oshima films the sex scenes matter-of-factly, which offended many and caused much controversy. But the high quality of production caused many others to call it a "masterpiece." It was also known as Empire of the Senses, and Oshima directed a follow-up, Empire of Passion (1978). For a real masterpiece check out Oshima's Gohatto (1999), released in the U.S. as Taboo.

DVD Details: The Criterion Collection's 2009 DVD release is a huge improvement over the 1998 Fox Lorber disc; it brings the movie further away from pornography and closer to art. Critic Tony Rayns provides an interesting commentary track, and there's an older, 5-minute interview with the director and his two stars. We also get newer interviews with Tatsuya Fuji and others, and six minutes of deleted scenes (shown within their proper context). Finally, there's an artful U.S. trailer, and a thick liner notes booklet.

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