In the Realm of the Senses

Like many of Oshima's films, this is based on a true story, concerning a woman who was found wandering the streets of Tokyo after having apparently killed and sexually mutilated her lover with his consent. The film reconstructs the relationship between Sada and Kichi on its own physical terms but examines it in a tradition that looks back to Japanese erotic woodcarvings-Sada and Kichi are twentieth-century refugees from Edo's “floating world”-and forward to pose questions of cinematic voyeurism. The performances by the two principals, Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji, like the film itself, are all the more audacious for their realism, for the almost casual acceptance of the crossing of boundaries. In locating his tale in 1936, the year in which Japanese militarism solidified, Oshima makes a pacifist statement more provocative and comprehending than “make love, not war”: kill me with love, he says, not with war.

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