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125 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious Minded Erotica......
Nagisa Oshima has achieved what few other directors have managed in dealing with the very touchy subject of sex, in this instance, with sexual obsession. If you plan to watch this movie for a cheap sexual thrill, you will be most disappointed. Oshima has drawn from a real incident reported in a 1936 Japanese newspaper. The film centers around the love between two...
Published on December 18, 1999 by vetridarte@earthlink.net

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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a rock and a hard place
Fox-Lorber has devised a new level of cruelty for fans of this film. You can have a full-screen version with subtitles or a widescreen version with dubbing. What you need is a widescreen version with subtitles. The dubbing turns this dark parable into a sleazy porno film. The images are carefully and beautifully composed - you don't need them chopped up by pan and scan...
Published on April 18, 2002


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125 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious Minded Erotica......, December 18, 1999
By 
Nagisa Oshima has achieved what few other directors have managed in dealing with the very touchy subject of sex, in this instance, with sexual obsession. If you plan to watch this movie for a cheap sexual thrill, you will be most disappointed. Oshima has drawn from a real incident reported in a 1936 Japanese newspaper. The film centers around the love between two people expressed physically, graphically, into realms of the senses where few dare to tread. And with good reason. This is a very intense film as it progresses from the attraction of two people through increasing experimentation in an effort not only to express their passion but to try to find the outer most limits of passion itself. Oshima must have had something metaphorical in mind but the journey as chronicled in the film also has retained the feel of the specifics. It's quirkey and eccentric. The backdrop of the story is as interesting as the story itself. It is an amazing spectacle to observe, giving the viewer a perspective on Japanese life not usually rendered but often alluded to in some historical accounts. One wonders what this experience must have been like for the actors. Oshima has managed what I have always believed should be done in order to treat the subject of sex fully and without shrinking from its' less savory aspects. This is serious minded erotica and quite unlike anything else on screen. The only other film I can recall that compares at all is "Taxi Zum Klo" which was autobiographical and starred a number of actual people playing themselves.Obviously a different catagory in that regard from what is going on here, but both films draw much of their power from explicitly sexual scenes without compromising the integrity of the story being told. This is a film experience that should not be missed.
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149 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ASTOUNDING EROTICA....., October 21, 2002
This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
This is an amazing film to watch. Not only is it beautifully filmed but the atmosphere is quite vivid in its' depiction of a Japanese servant girl who becomes mistress of the master of the house and sexually obsessed with their relationship. She leads him deeper into the sexual realm until it becomes the focus of both their lives. Their relationship becomes so intense that it can only lead to destruction. Film is extremely sexually graphic and to be honest, I wasn't even aware that I was watching "pornography" because the acting and story were so mesmerizing. By then, I didn't care because it wasn't offensive---just honest. The two leads are wonderful actors and they made me forget I was watching a supposedly one-time controversial film. The film is supposedly based on a true incident. The ending is shocking and depressing but that's allegedly what happened. I consider this film a classic and a must see for foreign film buffs. It's one of the most beautiful erotic love stories ever made and one of the most disturbing.
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184 of 205 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eroticism at its finest, July 29, 2001
By 
Ken2001 (Memphis, TN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
This movie is probably the most erotic film that I've seen to date (pornos notwithstanding). It is a movie about obsession and what can happen when it gets out of control, something that this movie demonstrates well. However, I wished the movie had delved into the background of the characters, especially Sada's. If the audience watching this film knew about Sada's past, where she was raped and then outcaste by her wealthy family because of it, I think the audience would have a better understanding about the reason for Sada's behavior. Still, despite that and an undeveloped plot, the movie is still entertaining. However, if you want to see a more sanitized version of this story, which is based on an actual event that took place in Tokyo in 1936, then get "A Woman Called Sada Abe", which is available on both VHS and DVD. From what I've heard, it doesn't have nearly as much sex and nudity as "In the Realm of the Senses", which is a good thing for people who are easily offended by it. Personally, I liked the sex scenes, which I felt were tasteful and elegant, unlike what would normally be found in a pornographic movie. There was a lot of emotion displayed in those scenes, and that gave it a certain romantic, authentic dimension to it. For that reason alone, I will watch it again and again.
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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a rock and a hard place, April 18, 2002
By A Customer
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This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
Fox-Lorber has devised a new level of cruelty for fans of this film. You can have a full-screen version with subtitles or a widescreen version with dubbing. What you need is a widescreen version with subtitles. The dubbing turns this dark parable into a sleazy porno film. The images are carefully and beautifully composed - you don't need them chopped up by pan and scan. In addition, the English language version (the only one I've seen) has horrible 'ghosting' along the edges of any high-contrast contour - it looks like it was dubbed from a poor over-the-air tv transmission! It's also slightly censored - not the version I saw overseas, anyway...Until someone offers a decent DVD version of this film, I recommend passing on these insultingly inferior transfers.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nagisa Oshima's explicit and controversial film on the infamous case of Sada Abe, August 5, 2006
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
"For four days, carrying the part she'd severed from his body, Sada wandered through Tokyo. Those arresting her were astounded that she glowed with happiness. The story shocked all of Japan. The compassion of the people made her strangely popular. These events took place in 1936."

As described by the final voice over of the narrator, the subject matter of "In the Realm of the Senses" is the most lurid true story to come out of Japan in the years before World War II. On May 18, 1936, a woman named Sada Abe strangled her lover, Kichizo Ishida, during sex at the hotel he owned. Sada was a maid in the household, having apparently retired from being a prostitute, and began an affair with her master that explored passion and pain during sex. That he would permit her to erotically asphyxiate him might have been enough to make this story a national sensation, but after Kichizo was dead she amputated his genitals and carried them with her as she wandered the streets of Tokyo for several days before she was arrested.

Nagisa Oshima's 1976 film tells the story of this troubled relationship, although it does not end with Sada's capture, but with her holding her dead lover after she has taken her grisly memento and written "Sada and Kichi, now one" in his blood on his chest while we hear the finally narration. Prior to that the film is about the dynamic of the relationship between Sada and Kichizo, with their sexual relationship explicitly presented as they travel the road to their entwined destiny. Consequently, I would consider "In the Realm of the Senses" to be a dramatic film with explicit sex scenes rather than a pornographic film with strong dramatic elements. What you think of the film might well depend on whether you consider the sex scenes to be gratuitous or erotic, although certainly there are other reactions. Simply knowing what you are going to see may be more than enough to dissuade you from seeing the film.

For me the eroticism is tempered by the omnipresent fact that in the end Sada is going to kill Kichizo and amputate his genitals, and there is nothing sexual in the film that is going to make me forget what is going to happen in the end. Nor is there anything here to suggest that the director is thinking otherwise. In the climactic scene the camera is shooting from in front of the couple, with the emphasis on his bound hands and her pulling on the scarf around his neck to cut off his air, and not on where their bodies are joined. Their sexual pathology is displayed and not explained, but I do not think Oshima can be faulted for failing to explain the unexplainable. We see how their sexual activity moves in inexorably in its fatal direction, and how the willingness to go beyond all the way becomes part of their attraction to each other. Ultimately the question is not whether the film is sexual, but whether the true story it tells feels real, and by that standard I think it succeeds.

The movie is currently rated NC-17, but was obviously first rated X by the MPAA. Oshima was unable to finish the film in Japan because of censorship laws, which is why the production is officially listed as being French and the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for both processing and editing. In Japan the sexual activity has been optically censored ever since the 1976 premier. The United States and the Netherlands are some of the only countries where the film has been available in completely uncut editions.

Sada was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison, but her sentence was commuted in 1940. Assuming an alias she married, but her husband divorced her when he discovered her identity. She then became an actress, actually portraying herself in several productions about the infamous incident, but after 1970 she dropped from sight and her final fate remains unknown. In addition to "In the Realm of the Senses," the story has been told cinematically in "A Woman Called Sada Abe" (1975) and "Sada" (1998). However, this version is far and away the most notorious, and for good reason. For many people simply hearing her story is enough and they will have no desire to see it depicted cinematically. Certainly my curiosity is satiated on the matter.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A Woman Called Sada Abe", January 25, 2006
By 
This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
The first impression that this film left, from the very first scenes, were the immense amounts not only of full nudity but also explicit sexual intercourse. Considering that this film was made in 1976, even the most unconventional European art cinema is relatively mild if compared to this. In fact, some scenes were so realistic and so arousing, that it was difficult not to get turned on.

But besides the obvious sexual aspects, this film will continue to spark many controversies for years ahead. The ending of the film was so realistically done, with violently colored bloodstreams in horror film style that I wondered if the actor was permanently harmed.

Without any doubt In the Realm of Senses is not"porn" nor is it "art", it is instead a look into the depths of love that has become completely obsessive with no rules, and no boundaries. There have been many movies about obsessive love, but none of them compares to this one, maybe in part because this is a true story. The character Sada definitely holds the movie as the obsessive lover. It's a film about how our desires can withdraw us from society, reality, or even out own consciousness. We become so obsessed with life, material things, people, and our obsessions can kill us. We become voyeurs when watching this film. The director constantly challenges us to look and to see how the two main characters see each other. The film is a commentary on Japanese society, as we see a woman dominate a man sexually. He withdraws from his position in society and from the military dictatorship that runs Japan. It's truly a beautiful film that succeeds in arousing our mind and our body, and then it challenges us to look deeper into our own place in society, how we withdraw from it, how we escape, and what our escape says about how we view society.

This movie is definitely not for all tastes or who are easily offended by graphic scenes of sex. It's like fatal attraction of the darkest kind. But for those adventurous souls looking for something different and interesting, I recommend this film.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing censored version (shortened and blackened), May 24, 2000
By 
Daniel Pisano (Darmstadt, Germany) - See all my reviews
While the movie itself is great, very intense and highly recommendable for an outstanding experience, this VHS version, although published on April 25th, 2000 by Fox Lorber, still features the widely-known and annoying, shortened and blackened 94 minute long (or rather: 'short') cut. The box however states 104 minutes, which is of course not correct and beware of the 1.66:1 full screen format! You will miss all the important scenes that make this movie the special one that it is and you will definitely agree once you have seen it uncut - should you ever get hold of one of those infamous uncensored Hong Kong laserdisc editions or be lucky enough to have it screened in a cinema near you. Down with black dots, omitted scenes and intentionally fuzzied images! Among the missing scenes are the one with Sada and the small boy at the end of the movie, the fainting Sada at the beginning, blackened are all of Sada's intense involvements with her Master and fuzzied as well as shortened are the scenes at the marriage with the wooden bird and the servant girl in the middle of the film (this is also shortened considerably) and Sada's engagement while her master takes a smoke at the beginning of the story. Some scenes are zoomed in so that nothing offensive could be seen and others are panned to the right or left for the same effect. Chopped off limbs are nice in an Italian antique statue but absolutely out of place (pun courtesy of the English language) in this movie. The list could go on for awhile but you get the drift. Oddly enough, the scene with the egg (you know which one I mean) is not censored! Strange, huh?
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Film as Art--Life as Film, January 15, 2000
By 
megumi (Los Angeles) - See all my reviews
This is a film that redefines relationship. It is irreverant, but there is a total beauty to the truthfulness of the ways that the individuals lose their identities into the maelstrom of sexuality. Not only do they lose identities, they lose...well, I guess you have to see that one. To say that this film is "porno" or "sexually explicit" is to class it with flicks that have nothing to say. Not only does this film have something to say, it shouts about relationships, the ways that people lose themselves into the abyss of sexuality, attempting to return to the symbiotic pre-birth state. I think that I have seen this film five times. Each time I come away with a different nuance into the demands of a relationship, and the varieties of demands that human beings make on each other. In some ways, it's not terribly unlike a conventional marriage....
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor DVD edition of a great movie, October 7, 2003
By A Customer
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This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
The complaints about the Fox Lorber edition of this movie are unfortunately justified. 7-8 out of the original 104 minutes have been cut, reducing the movie to about 96-97 minutes. The movie is reproduced poorly in pan-scan. The scene access is haphazard and often into the middle of a scene and not the beginning (in short useless). The quality of the video transfer is not great, although I would have accepted that if it were not for the butchered editing and cuts.
7 minutes does not seem that serious until you realize the film is robbed of parts or entire scenes which made it shocking and unique (as well as almost banned) at the time. The jacket does not mention the cuts, and lists the original length of 104 minutes. I do not have any other Fox Lorber editions in my library, and this will not make me want to purchase others.
The movie is still shocking and fascinating in its portrayal of the main characters as well as the background against which it is set, but the cuts shorten and obscure the key scenes. Hard to say if I would consider the movie pornographic, or even erotic, but it certainly does not lose its impact even though 25 years have passed since I originally saw it when it made its original art-house appearance in the US.
I give it three stars only because of the original material, and not this DVD edition. This is a unique piece of moviemaking considering the original 1976-77 release date, and to my knowledge there is currently no better alternative in the US. I would suggest to anyone who decides to purchase this DVD to look up and read one of the detailed reviews and synopsis of the movie online, to get a better idea of the missing material.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE CENSOR HAS BEEN AT WORK HERE, February 10, 2007
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This review is from: In the Realm of the Senses (DVD)
This version from Fox-Lorber, in Japanese with English subtitles, is really only 97 minutes long, not the 105 as claimed. Although it still is replete with graphic sexual behavior, it seems there is not quite as much as I remember from before, and yes, we are missing 8 minutes of footage. While little is done to affect plot development or to alter the overall story, somebody somewhere was busy with the scissors on this version; they will let us see this much graphic sexuality and no more. Since it still carries an NC-17 rating I don't see the point, but then the bluenoses never cease their gadfly gaddings about, snip here, snip there, pretty soon you are convinced you have seen the whole thing, not realizing that someone has gone to great lengths to censor your veiwing intake. The official running time was 105 minutes as made, the box says 104 minutes but the clock on my DVD player says 97 minutes. Why bother excising a movie already rated as NC-17 unless you are a zealot trying a sneak edit.

The only other alternative for this film is the version dubbed into English only, with no subtitle option at all.

I don't know whether that one has been edited.
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