In the Realm of the Senses | Film review

Revived at BFI Southbank, this uncompromising film has not dated one iota, says Peter Bradshaw

Revived now as part of an Ôshima season at BFI Southbank, this uncompromising film has not dated one iota, perhaps because films that are really about sex are still such a rarity, despite the supposed sexiness of everything that surrounds us. Eiko Matsuda plays Sada, a serving girl who comes to work for an innkeeper, Kichi (Tatsuya Fuji), and they begin an obsessive affair. Sada and Kichi have sex compulsively, variously, all the time, and this is filmed by Ôshima with untroubled candour. The couple never undergoes anything as banal as a traditional storyline arc, and their love is never subject to any of the usual retributive narrative corrections: Sada does not get pregnant or sick and they never break up and make up. Most importantly, they are utterly incurious about each other's background - it is part of their ecstatic indifference to anything other than the present moment. The exception is one incredible scene in which, having capriciously ordered Kichi to have sex with a 67-year-old geisha, Sada and he have a brief conversation about their parents afterwards over this old woman's body. Is she dead? Has she just fainted? Either way, it has to be one of the most extraordinary moments in screen history. Oshima's film widens and deepens the sensual realm.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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