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aka - Ai No Borei
Japan/France 1978
Directed by
Nagisa Oshima
100 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Empire Of The Passions

Nagisa Ôshima’s follow-up to his infamous story of erotic obsession, In The Realm Of The Senses (1976) is somewhat of a hybrid, essentially a kaidan, or ghost story, rather gratuitously tickled up with visual and thematic elements from the earlier film.

Set in a small village in 19th century Japan, it centres on the character of Seki, a wife and mother who serves in the local saké house. Her husband, Gisaburo, is a rickshaw driver overly fond of his booze. When Toyoji, a soldier just returned from war and some 20 years her junior turns up they start a passionate affair, murder Gisaburo and dispose of his body in an old well. But when the ghost of Gisaburo starts appearing to Seki guilt sets in and she gradually becomes unhinged.

There is much here of visual beauty and Ôshima does a fine job with the kaidan form although the sexual elements do not live up to the English title (the title of Itoko Nakamura's story on which the film is based, "The Case Of The Murdered Rickshaw Driver" is more fitting) and seem motivated by the aim of cashing in on its predecessor’s notoriety, exchanging the penile fixation of the first film for a vaginal one in this film (Tatsuya Fuji returns from the earlier film, asm once againm the male lead) than any integral need. Notwithstanding, Ôshima was awarded the Best Director award at Cannes for his trouble (Best Film went to Ermanno Olmi's The Tree OF Wooden Clogs).

DVD Extras: Cinema And Censorship: The Films Of Nagisa Oshima, a 40 m discussion with Solrun Hoaas, a Melbourne-based director and writer.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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