In The Realm Of The Senses (aka Ai No Corrida), also probably known as John Wayne Bobbitt’s least-favourite film, for reasons that will become apparent, is a strange sexual tale of lust, adultery and why it can be bad to dip your wick elsewhere.
Apparently a true story, it is the tale of a man, Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji), his wife and his mistress, Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) – an ex-prostitute, although not all at the same time. The man himself gets his kicks Michael Hutchence-style, by trying to reach orgasm while being strangled, thus to heighten the stimulation, but be careful not to go too far otherwise… uh-oh, too late. Once the deed was done, the mistress cut off his wedding tackle and, to quote the epilogue:
These events took place in 1936.”
But before we reach the climax (ouch!), there are scenes involving an egg not quite being shoved where the sun don’t shine but next door, the time when Kichizo, or Kichi for short, shags an elderly geisha girl to the point where she dies and another point in which Sada tells him she’s on his period and he uses two fingers to take the taste test.
Made in 1976, this film didn’t get a UK BBFC cinema certificate until 1991 (thanks to eyeblink on Digital Spy who confirmed that it was previously shown without a certificate under club-membership conditions since the late 70s, and he I first saw it when they showed it at Southampton University in 1985), when it unsurprisingly was given an 18 and it’s taken even longer to appear on video and subsequently DVD. While the cinema version at the time was completely uncut, the 2001 DVD release was similarly-billed, it almost was. There was one edit to a scene where part of the screen is masked out to hide the part featuring Sada and a small boy where she pulls his Pilsner. Hence, it shouldn’t have been technically labelled uncut, but it was as uncut as I wanted it to be.
This new Blu-ray release now completely sees the film in all its uncut-ness.
As for the reason why she did this? Well, we know that Sada was getting increasingly addicted to sex, but clearly she took things one step too far and couldn’t resist grabbing it while he and a young girl were dancing around her. Bear in mind this story happened in 1936, although at any time in the history of the world, there’s always been a certain section of society who are complete oddballs.
Filmed at a widescreen ratio of 1.50:1, originally, this Blu-ray – and the previous DVD release – are in 1.66:1, which is how the 35mm prints were presented, and within a 16:9 frame. The DVD wasn’t in anamorphic widescreen, but this release is in 1080p high definition. That said, it’s a 35-year-old film and the print has a lot of shimmering and/or grain on it so it’s still far from ideal. The print also has a rather soft focus to it but that’s the way it was filmed. Overall, it’s just about watchable, but it does question whether a Blu-ray release was worth the extra effort, save for the additional extras included over the basic photo gallery and director’s filmography on the DVD.
My amplifier tells me that the sound is coming out in DTS, but it was made with a mono soundtrack which makes way for the occasional orgasmic gasp and that’s about it.
The extras are as follows:
- Once Upon a Time: In The Realm of the Senses (52:14):
This is a long ‘making of’ feature which features clips from the film along with chat from others, as well as a look back at the films of Nagisa Oshima. There are no subtitles for it, other than when chat comes from others who are not speaking in English.
- Recalling The Film (38:40): This is a feature from 2003 containig interviews with consulting producer Hayao Shibata, line producer Koji Wakamatsu, assistant Director Yoichi Sai and distributor Yoko Asakura.
- Panel discussion at Birbeck College (57:01): A critical discussion about sex in Japanese cinema between Julian Ross (Film historian and curator, Vertigo magazine), Jasper Sharp (Author of Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema), Roland Domenig (Japanese Film Scholar at the University of Vienna) and Mathieu Capel (Scholar of Japanese Cinema)
- Extended Scenes (12:19): Six of them here, with the additional bits presented in colour and the existing parts in black and white to distinguish between the two and set the scene. There isn’t exactly a lot that demands to be put back into the film, except for a couple of scenes between Sada and Kichi.
For a 102-minute film I’d expect around 20 chapter points, about one every five minutes. This disc has 8, like the DVD, which isn’t good. There are English subtitles which can be turned off if you want to guess what they’re saying and the menu is static with the theme tune playing over the top.
If you haven’t seen it, the film is still a must-buy (or must-rent, at least) if only for the shock value of seeing what is basically hard-core pornography, but dressed up as art just enough for the BBFC to cave in.
In The Realm Of The Senses (aka Ai No Corrida) is out now on Blu-ray.
Running time: 102 minutes
Date of release: October 17th 2011
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Nagisa Oshima
Producer: Anatole Dauman
Screenplay: Nagisa Oshima
Music: Minoru Miki
Kichizo: Tatsuya Fuji
Sada Abe: Eiko Matsuda
Toku: Aoi Nakajima
Tagawa Inn Manager: Yasuko Matsui
Matsuko: Meika Seri
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.