|EMPIRE OF PASSION (AI NO BOREI)
(director/writer: Nagisa Oshima; screenwriter: from the
novel by Mrs.
Itoko Namura; cinematographer: Yoshio
Uraoka; music: Tôru Takemitsu; cast: Tatsuya Fuji (Toyoji),
Kazuko Yoshiyuki (Seki),
Takahiro Tamura (Gisaburo),
Takuzô Kawatani (Inspector Hotta), Akiko Koyama (Mother of Landowner), Taiji Tonoyama (Toichiro), Sumie Sasaki (Odame), Eizo Kitamura (Grocer), Masami Hasegawa (Oshin), Kenzo Kawarazaki (Landowner), Takaaki Sugiura (Denzo); Runtime: 105;
MPAA Rating: R; producers: Anatole Dauman/Shigeru
Wakatsuki; Janus; 1978-Japan/France-in
Japanese with English subtitles)
"Never is truly enjoyable."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It won Best Director at Cannes in
1978 for controversial Japanese film-maker Nagisa Oshima
("Cruel Story of Youth"/"Death by Hanging"/"Merry Christmas, Mr
Lawrence"). It's a less sexually
graphic companion piece to In The Realm of the Senses,
but one that is equally bold and wicked. The ghost story
is from the novel by Mrs. Itoko Namura.
In a country mountain village in
1895, Toyoji (Tatsuya
Fuji), an idler demobilized soldier returns to
his hometown village and has an affair with Seki (Kazuko
Yoshiyuki), an attractive but weak-willed
married peasant woman with two children who is
twenty-six years older. When the grasping soldier shaves
her pubic hair on a whim, he then fears her elderly
rickshaw driver husband Gisaburo (Takahiro
Tamura) will learn of the affair and talks
her into getting hubby drunk and then they both use a
rope to strangle him to death. Toyoji then disposes the
body down a well, and she tells neighbors that hubby
left the village to find work. Three years later, the
ghost of Seki's husband appears and begins haunting the
guilt-stricken lovers to the point they lose their nerve
and start acting peculiar. With the appearance of a
ghost reported, Inspector Hotta (Takuzô
Kawatani) takes charge of the investigation and
suspects the couple of murder.
The film is pleasing because it's technically sound, visually stunning and well-acted. But it never is truly enjoyable or poignant, more of an artistic accomplishment that aims to be a crowd-pleaser. But by cutting down on the sex exploits, a disappointed French producer Anatole Dauman cut ties with the film-maker after also producing In The Realm of the Senses.
REVIEWED ON 6/21/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ