Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In the Realm of the Senses

Ai no Corrida; Erotic drama, Japan/ France, 1976; D: Nagisa Oshima, S: Eiko Matsuda, Tatsuya Fuji, Aoi Nakajima, Meika Seri

Japan, '36. Abe Sada, a former prostitute, got a new job as a maid in a hotel in order to pay off the debt of her husband. She meets the hotel's owner, Kichizo, a married man, and the two begin to have an affair that consists of little other than sexual experiments. Abe's possessiveness and obsessive behavior with Kichizo grows to the point that she threatens to kill him if he so much as looks at another woman. The two of them marry and spend days in bed. Their mutual obsession escalates when Kichizo finds he is excited by being strangled during intercourse. At one point, she strangles him to hard and kills him. She then cuts his genitals and writes "Sada and Kichi, now one" in blood on his chest.

"In the Realm of the Senses" is one of the most radical films of cinema because it used sex as the one and only way to articulate and shape it's story and style, an experimental work that's almost impossible to grade and a one that breaks all limits of taboo in portraying the human body as an limitless erotic, empirical entity with numerous physical functions. The story is about a couple that had intercourse almost non stop - basically so often that it became a boring routine - and led to the arrest of the director Nashima; he was charged for filming a porn. Basically, it is a porn, but a porn with a difference, because it's so realistic and demanding. Some scenes are very brave; Abe is holding Kichizo's penis even during sleep. An old man is trying to masturbate but can't get an erection in front of Abe. Kichizo puts an egg into Abe's vagina, she "lays" it and orders him to eat it. It seems as if Oshima wanted to film all the things that subconsciously lie hidden in the minds of people who don't want to think about them, in order to confront them and make them analyze them. Oshima isn't skillful enough, but a lot of situations seem surprisingly humane and honest (in one scene Kichizo tells Abe; "I need my penis. I have to urinate", and she replies; "Then do it here, in me, where it's nice and warm"), and the intercourse/love scenes are directed in a way to seem both warm and cold, making them look as if the two protagonist see the only refuge in them from the cold world outside, that was then preparing for a global war and hate. Namely, in one scene, and one scene only, Kichizo passes by a mass of soldiers: it's as if the director secretly hints that while he was obsessed with intercourse, the rest of Japan was as equally strong obsessed with imperialism - and on both sides, each in their own terms, that led to a tragedy.


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