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In the Realm of Oshima

Saturday, July 11, 2009
8:20 p.m. Empire of Passion
Nagisa Oshima (Japan/France, 1978)

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(Ai no borei). Oshima’s “sequel” to In the Realm of the Senses in many ways reacts against that film. Less explicit, Empire of Passion “delves, more profoundly . . . into the roots of life,” Oshima said. The setting is a late-nineteenth-century village, meticulously recreated; here, the lovers are not hermetically sealed off from society as they were in the earlier film but rather are exposed to the pitiless social conventions of centuries. The crime passionel plot, seemingly out of James M. Cain, is again based on a true incident. Seki, the wife of an elderly rickshaw driver, has an affair with a newly discharged soldier, Toyoji, a man twenty years her junior. They murder the husband, Gisaburo, but his ghost appears to Seki and other villagers. Fear not; “the ghost is a farmer’s idea of a ghost, not a samurai’s,” Oshima noted. Revenge is the last thing on Gisaburo’s mind—even in death, he wants his sake, and peace all around.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Oshima, based on an episode in Itoko Nakamura’s biography of the writer Takashi Nagatsuka. Photographed by Yoshio Miyajima. With Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Tatsuya Fuji, Takahiro Tamura, Takuzo Kawatani. (106 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)