466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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colinr0380
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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#101 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Nov 01, 2010 11:26 am

Re: In The Realm of the Senses

I thought it was an interesting film all about whether the total possession of another person, body and mind, is at all possible (or desireable!) and the impossibility of two people ever becoming one, no matter how much time they spend together. The limits of sex. I particularly liked the idea that the closer the couple become, the more extreme the moments that they are apart become, or the way that the slightest of difference in their reactions to a situation can be a shocking sign of their separateness even while they are joined together so intimately (such as the beating of the maid who calls them perverts, which is laughed off by Kichizo but taken personally by Abe; or the asphixiation play which seems much more to be about Kichizo wanting to give himself totally to Abe's pleasure than something mutually pleasurable - though by that point the play of obsession and submission has them fully in its grip). I could see parallels with the Cronenberg film Dead Ringers, but also a slight linkage could perhaps be made to that, rather queasy, film Cannibal which portrayed the events taking place in that notorious German cannibalism case as a kind of twisted attempt at total possession of another person.

Kichizo's possession, shown early on, is perhaps a more masculine kind of dominance - a wish to take whoever, whenever he wants, whether that is the latest maid he employs or the rape of the innkeeper (an act of anger and frustration at the outside world, or an attempt to prove to himself that he has liaisons beyond Abe Sada, despite her forbidding him to take anyone else). Sada's is more about the possessing of her object of desire totally, so there is the jealousy of the wife (while seemingly Kichizo's wife does not particularly mind, or has gotten used to, him screwing the home help on a regular basis. Perhaps it gives her some time off, usually secure in the knowledge that these encounters don't mean anything?), and the wish to move from a voyeuristic position of spying to herself being seen being taken by her lover, as if the lovemaking with Kichizo is the only thing that gives her life a greater meaning and sets her apart from the rest of the world.

The 'bull fighting' of the Ai no Corrida title can probably be best applied to the lover's sexual stamina - who will be subdued first? (Almodovar tackles a pretty similar scenario with much more explicit bullfighting imagery in Matador, and it would be interesting to discover whether Realm of the Senses was much of an influence at all on that film) Kichizo might be a voracious and promiscuous lover but that excitement is no match for the powerful fixated sexual attraction Abe Sada feels purely towards him. She needs the slapping and pinching stimuluses when she is 'working' with her client in order to feel something away from Kichizo but is insatiable again when with him; whereas ironically it seems that being trapped, albeit willingly, with just one woman causes Kichizo's libido to wither leading to the taking up of the asphyxiation games just to try and 'keep (it) up' to please his lover.

The possessiveness of Abe Sada is what destroys their relationship in that sense - her unwillingness to let Kichizo leave, have sex and recharge his batteries with other women (as his wife seems to have accommodated), or to even just leave him alone sexually for a moment to recharge prevents him from recovering enough to maybe end their relationship (even though Kichizo does not show any signs of wishing to do so), and leads to the inevitable death even though that will obviously leave Sada totally, irrevocably alone again (With only her inner child for company!)

Perhaps the most obvious example of this idea of possessiveness is the early scene where Sada performs oral sex and then in close up lets Kichizo's semen dribble from her mouth. This seems to play subversively with pornographic imagery where an image that most usually signifies male potency, of having 'filled up' their partner so much that they cannot take any more (and which visually displays the evidence of a man's orgasm for the viewing audience), gets turned from a rather demeaning to the female image to a display of Sada's dominance, as she is choosing to display to Kichizo (and the audience!) the result of his orgasm that he will now not be able to give to his wife. This seems to be the early, most explicit in a number of senses, bookend to the final scene of Sada literally claiming possession of her own penis and testicles from her lover.

I suppose in that sense the political aspect comes from the complete rejection of politics as a consequence of a rejection of the entire world beyond each other. The idea of one person totally giving their body to another without any other considerations for ethics (the marriage is abandoned; Kichizo never objects to Abe prostituting herself for short-term cash to fund their lifestyle except to express his jealousy of another man being with her), obligations (the business he runs appears to be abandoned), or codes of decency. The world cannot claim Kichizo for warfare; or to make money that can then be taxed; or to run a business that provides a more or less essential service (or even to simply produce the next generation for the good of the country, as neither wife nor girlfriend ever seem to get pregnant) - the couple become totally useless from a societal point of view.

All those scenes of sex in front of characters expressing various states of interest, shock, disgust, surprise, nonchalence seems to be showing the way the world is constantly intruding as much as the couple try to shut themselves away - sometimes with anger at the couple's exclusionary activities, sometimes damningly (for the ethics of the wider world) revealing a wish to participate. Presumably as long as they pay the bills almost everything is permitted (a comment on capitalism?)

Time seems to be both the couple's enemy and completely irrelevant. All ages exist at once, jostling against each other. There feels like a collapsing of life into three stages - the child, the virile, and the elderly, with only the middle stage being considered to be worthwhile. The child is a halcyon age, yet also containing a kind of cruelty and (obviously) an immaturity, aware of the taboo of sex but angry at this being a part of their future as in the scene where the children are tormenting the beggar in the early scene, snowballing his genitals. The elderly are tormented by memories of sexuality but impotent or incompetent as their bodies betray them.

Perhaps Sada and Kichizo are condemned by being shown as children in the two fantasies - the mid-point penis yanking one (where the adult Abe apparently, since I was watching the zoomed in Film4 version, grabs child Kichizo to possess her favourite organ much as she was doing to Kichizio when she wouldn't let go of his penis while walking him home earlier on, while the child version of herself looks on at the scene with a kind of dawning horror), and the final fantasy as Kichizo dies as he and his boy alter-ego circle Sada until both disappear and she is left with just the girl within her for company, asking the question of whether she is ready to die too, which she does not appear to be.

The parting of the souls is now totally final, proving their total separateness. Sada is left with the body she so desired to possess, yet it is a possession of a hollow shell, which itself will still decay, even at a much faster pace than normal aging. Perhaps the biggest question that the film leaves is whether this actually fulfills Sada - the final narration suggests that she was found in a state of ecstatic happiness, maybe mania, wandering from inn to inn with the severed genitals of her lover. Yet that final top down image seems to show Sada looking slightly perturbed and clinging to her dead lover as if still wanting to make him a part of her, as if she knows it is the end of something but does not wish it to be. What happens when you reach as far as you can go, have the biggest climax possible, and then find yourself later coming to your senses, and then a little later on finding that after having gone to such extremes that the craving may still be there and has not been satiated?
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Sep 24, 2011 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#102 Post by dad1153 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:24 pm

Saw "Empire of Passions" on DVD recently (where's my Blu-ray Criterion?). Far less sexually explicit than "Realm" (but not by that much considering it's half ghost story, half steamy erotic thriller) Oshima is firmly in control of the movie's tone and that's what sells it. Any Japanese hack could have done a rural Japanese cautionary ghost story with sex scenes in-between the scares that would have been laughable if the shifting mood hadn't been handled correctly. Instead "EOP" is yet another Oshima exploration of guilt-ridden souls craving physical intimacy while wrestling with society disapproval and inner demons far more scary than anything on-screen (although Takahiro Tamura's Gisaburo as a rickshaw-pushing ghost is mighty creepy). The lovers at the center of the story feel more human (flawed character and all) than their intolerant neighbors, and are thus more accessible than the similar-but-off-putting isolated couple from "Realm" (despite Tatsuya playing the male lead in both pictures). If you can get past the movie's 26 year age difference between Toyoji and Seki (instead of the actors' real-life six year age difference) "Empire of Passions" has more brains, eroticism and passion (duh!) than a dozen "Fatal Attractions" and "Basic Instincts" put together.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#103 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:43 pm

I had a lot of time to think over the definition of "pornography" while watching In the Realm of the Senses, because honestly there's not a whole lot else to do at a certain point in viewing this film other than start formulating arguments against it. I recall fondly a former professor who once quipped, "In the words of Justice Stewart, I like it when I see it." Another more cogently argued that pornography could simply be identified as any work whose express purpose is to sexually arouse the intended audience and using that definition, I'd agree that In the Realm of the Senses isn't pornography. But were that it was, for at least pornography has an express purpose that while not laudable is at least functional. The film half-heartedly alleges to depict sexual mania, the slowly snowballing interplay between a dropped-guard and increased arousal that happens behind closed doors, but the film is hampered with Porn Logic, and this monotonous structure ruins any weak attempts at anything other than shock value. Pornography is of course inherently monotonous-- it exists to achieve rapid arousal and release, and if you don't find something to your liking, wait and they'll try the same ingredients in a new way over and over (Hardcore pornography's a little like Taco Bell this way). But remove any serious attempts at depicting sexuality (certainly no grand connection will ever be made between the audience and these two hypersexed ciphers) and any serious attempts at depicting pornography and all that's left is an interminable trip into the realm of the senseless.
Last edited by domino harvey on Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#104 Post by SpiderBaby » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:53 pm

^ So pretty much one gets more out of pornography than this film.

"One gets more" would be like "More Important" to someone. Criterion releases (well they say they do) "important" films.

Then why in the hell hasn't Criterion released porno?

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#105 Post by knives » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:00 pm

I have wanted them to release Behind the Green Door for awhile now. Though I think they did do some legit porn back in the LD days.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#106 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:06 pm

I haven't seen it, but this hilarious scene from Nightdreams leads me to believe it could warrant a home from Criterion (THIS IS AS NSFW AS IT GETS, FOLKS)

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#107 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:22 pm

Isn't Nightdreams the title of the show that Max Renn contemplates picking up towards the beginning of Videodrome?

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#108 Post by knives » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:30 pm

You're thinking of Samurai Dreams

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#109 Post by Orlac » Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:28 pm

I hear Realm is now avaliable uncut in the UK. What happened to change the BBFC's mind?

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#110 Post by Calvin » Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:29 pm

Orlac wrote:I hear Realm is now avaliable uncut in the UK. What happened to change the BBFC's mind?
BBFC Case Study

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colinr0380
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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#111 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:39 pm

Calvin wrote:
Orlac wrote:I hear Realm is now avaliable uncut in the UK. What happened to change the BBFC's mind?
BBFC Case Study
We should also add to that case study that the 2000 resubmission was swiftly followed by Film4 showing it on their television channel, so it would appear that a good reason for resubmitting the film was that if it was passed by the BBFC there would be an avenue to show it on, along with home video (Film4 had also done this in 1999 with the Mark Kermode re-cut of Caligula). Film4 was a monthly subscription channel at the time (moving to Freeview in the mid-2000s) which likely allowed such films to be shown that would be impossible even now, and during this time Film4 were pushed some boundaries by showing Salo (which had also only just been passed by the BBFC. The Kermode documentary on the Criterion re-release dates from its Film4 screening), Taxi zum klo, Seul contre tous, Carne, Ai no corrida and Romance.
The first attempt at reframing was considered unacceptably crude and damaging to the film. Therefore the scene was reworked in a specialist lab, using a more gradual zoom into the characters' faces. With this reframing completed, the film was classified 18 uncut for cinema release in 1991.
This is something that I think gets to core of concerns about censorship - I'd much prefer if a film was censored to have the jarring cuts and edits to show that footage is missing (or on the other hand, as in the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World thread, to show restored footage), rather than having someone other than the filmmakers do a bit of sleight of hand to hopefully suggest that there was nothing removed at all. I know that it can become a source of pride to think that a seamless edit has been made, but that does also suggest the pernicious nature of censorship that has the authority to change, delete, or create a different meaning from an extant work. (Of course outside of an ideal world scenario of keeping an artistic work fully intact, there is also an argument from the opposite point of view that optical reframing has at least allowed the film to be screened over the previous thirty years in some form rather than being completely unavailable)

And of course the technicality of being able to claim something was uncut because the imagery was reframed can also potentially cause its own confusions.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#112 Post by Gregory » Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:26 pm

A couple of disclaimers before my comments: I'll admit that I'm not very well-versed in the changing attitudes of the BBFC or in the Protection of Children Act, and I hope I don't come across as defending censorship (which I think accomplishes nothing in a case like this in which the film is not child pornography and any harm done to a child in the course making it cannot be undone), but I find the reasoning behind the BBFC's decision to allow the original shot of the child being harmed pretty strange. I had thought that one of the relevant facts was that actual child abuse is shown, not merely that the scene in question was considered by some to be sexually "indecent." Yet the case study points out that "The brief moment of 'penis tugging' does not occur within a sexual context and is not at all sexual or eroticised in nature," so apparently a brief episode of real child abuse is tolerable while explicit sex is not. I understand that the Protection of Children Act was specifically concerned with preventing child pornography and other "indecent" images of children, but is there no prohibition against showing unsimulated abuse of a child the way there is for unsimulated animal cruelty, or in both types of cases is the brevity of the scene something that can allow an exception?

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#113 Post by Jgh8xxx » Fri Jun 05, 2020 9:50 pm

Am wondering and can't find any info any where- which do we consider the definitive version of IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES- the Region B StudioCanal BLU or the Region A Criterion BLU? Deciding on which one to spring for! Tempted to go with Studio Canal to snag EMPIRE OF PASSION on BLU too since who knows when that will hit Region A.

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Re: 466-467 Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses

#114 Post by odino » Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:11 am

Sad that CC still doesn't release Empire after over 11 years where this is such an easy bundle to package together. It is on the CC so I suppose they remastered it.

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