Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 30 - In the Realm of the Senses

In the Realm of the Senses (1976) directed by Nagisa Oshima

In the Realm of the Senses is based on real life events that occurred in Japan in 1936 where a woman asphyxiated her lover and then cut off his penis and testicles, carrying them around with her until her arrest. This film gained notoriety for its sexual content in which actors and actresses engage in actual penetrative sex and fellatio, breaking a long standing taboo of mainstream cinema. It certainly crosses the line between pornography and art, but pornography is meant to excite and arouse which is not the intent of this film, though I'm not even sure I understand why it is necessary to include these scenes to begin with. It doesn't really enhance the sense of erotism or to make any point other than to seemingly shock the viewer. To be fair, the actual explicit scenes (explicit being defined as penetration, not full frontal nudity which occurs throughout) only occur in several minutes in a couple of scenes in a film filled end to end with sex. Basically the entire film revolves around the two lovers Sada Aba and Kichizo Ishida doing it over and over again.

Sada is a young woman working at an inn who soon catches the eye of the inn's proprietor Kichizo. The two soon begin a torrid affair where they are consumed by each other's sexuality. The title of this film is aptly named as the two hedonists truly do live in the realm of the senses. All things else go by the wayside as they have sex in front of geishas and maids, not even stopping to have their room cleaned or to have sake poured for them. As the movie progresses, so do their sexual tastes and desires as they grow increasingly experimental and dangerous in their routines.

Sada begins the film as passive and submissive and slowly turns possessive and jealous. She brandishes a knife on Kichizo and jokingly threatens to cut off his penis if he goes back to his wife. You can sense the growing shift in the power dynamic between the two until Kichizo is resigned to be a puppet for her pleasures.

The main problem with this film is that the constant sex becomes tiring, which might have actually been director Nagisa Oshima's goal, to demonstrate their need to experiment more sexually and also to show just how much it is wearing down on Kichizo. It seems almost ironic to say that you wish there was less sex and more plot, but in this case it is true. While you get a good sense of their desire and passion, you don't really get much else in this film and the ending seems like a natural and inevitable progression rather than a shocking result. It sort of just happens. That isn't to say I wasn't intrigued. It's hard not to be slightly titillated by this film, but there is only so much you sex you can sell before before getting to the point of being monotonous.

Grade: C

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