Empire of Passion (Ai no borei) (In the Realm of Passion) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Empire of Passion (Ai no borei) (In the Realm of Passion) Reviews

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rubystevens
Super Reviewer
½ May 12, 2009
a noirish folktale with horror elements, much less explicit than it's notorious companion piece, in the realm of the senses. beautiful cinematography, especially the snow scenes. the story owes alot to the various postman incarnations. if i may say so, the rape scene almost put me off the film. it seems more misogynist than anything in realm of the senses
Super Reviewer
½ June 23, 2010
Can we have some sensible reviews of this film, please. An average star-rating of 3 is ridiculous for this near-masterpiece. "Empire of Passion" is a loose companion piece to Nagisa Oshima's notorious "In the Realm of the Senses". Though Tatsuya Fuji plays the male lead once more, and the story again concerns a couple driven to violence by their obsessive lust, "Empire of Passion" is less intense than the earlier film and its tone is much lighter, allowing for a healthy dose of comedy. Set in late 19th century rural Japan, it's a ghost story about a rickshaw puller, murdered by his wife and her lover, who returns from the dead and haunts his killers to the point of self-incrimination. Whereas "In the Realm of the Senses" was mostly set indoors, this exquisitely photographed film is opened out into the beautiful countryside, the passage of time mapped by the changing seasons. Curiously the frequent softcore sex scenes feel gratuitous and exploitative in a way that their hardcore equivalent in "...Senses" never did, and it's for this reason I've deducted a half-star.
Super Reviewer
December 18, 2009
"In the Realm of Passion" is somewhat of a sheep in wolf's clothing. Titled to suggest a sequel to the controversial "In the Realm of the Senses," "Passion" has little of the daring frankness which Nagisa Oshima fans might crave. Until some unsettling violence in the conclusion finally inserts some shock value, this is a surprisingly traditional ghost story. Really, it's not far from something Akira Kurosawa might have directed -- though Kurosawa's version would have a better score and more eloquent use of smoke and snow.The setting is a small Japanese village in 1895. Seki is married to Gisaburo, a rickshaw driver who works long hours. She begins an affair with Toyoji, a dashing, much younger man. After her lover -- a fan of giving oral sex -- urges her to shave her groin and then performs the deed himself (none of these scenes are explicit), he declares Gisaburo must be murdered because he'll otherwise see the shorn area and develop suspicions. After getting him drunk, Seki and Toyoji strangle him and dump his body down a derelict well.The two hardly benefit from the crime, since they still have to hide their affair from the neighbors. And soon enough, Gisaburo's eerie ghost begins materializing. He is very much a Shakespearean apparition -- the character simply adds reddened eyes and a ghoulishly painted face, and then solemnly enters scenes to remind the living of their guilt. (A howling village idiot with hidden understanding also seems archetypal of the genre, while another familiar persona -- a daughter with clairvoyant dreams -- is frustratingly underused.)Once snide mutterings increase amongst the villagers and an inspector begins prying into Gisaburo's disappearance, we know Seki and Toyoji are doomed. She wrestles with remorse, while he succumbs to an unconscious ritual not unlike Lady Macbeth's tortured hand-washing. Strangely, the film supplies a perfect resolution to their agony with about 10 minutes to go, then backs off and attaches a much less poetic end.The imagery is visually lovely -- the costumes, quaint dwellings and nature scenes are full of rich, earthy color. It's just that much of the film seems a bit conservative, coming from a director whose earlier work could be so raw and brutal.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ August 23, 2010
[font=Century Gothic]Nagisa Oshima's "In the Realm of Passion" takes place in a Japanese village in 1895. Seki(Kazuko Yoshiyuki) is married to Gisaburo(Takuhiro Tamura), a rickshaw driver. She begins a tumultuous affair with Toyoji(Tatsuya Fuji) who just got out of the army and is 20 years her junior. After Toyoji blackmails her with the most unique scenario I've ever seen, she agrees to kill her husband with him. They succeed and dump Gisaburo's body in a well. The story recommences three years later...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"In the Realm of Passion" starts promisingly but the movie, by trying to be atmospheric, just succeeds in being murky. This is not as explicit as Oshima's "In the Realm of the Senses", thus showing much needed subtlety and self-control.[/font]
½ July 18, 2014
I am a great fan of ‘shima's work, though unfortunately I have only seen previously six films of his, all between 1965's 'Pleasures of the Flesh' and 1976's extremely controversial 'In the Realm of the Senses'. This, like the latter, was a period piece that looked at a doomed relationship (this time in 1895), though far less scandalous in its sexuality, though still titillating nevertheless. Exiled and forced to work with the French in order to continue his passion, ‘shima's storytelling, through Yoshio Miyajima's gorgeous camerawork and another exemplary soundtrack by Japanese scoring genius, TŰru Takemitsu, and remarkably passion-ate performances by its stars, Tatsuya Fuji (who separated his shoulder, his acting was so intense) and Kazuko Yoshiyuki (who, I must admit, has the most amazing nipples I have ever seen), was great, earning him Best Director at Cannes. It seemed a reverse noir, with Fuji's Toyoji playing the seducer, and Yoshiuki's once-faithful wife being persuaded to be co-conspirator to her loving (but not fulfilling her desires) rickshaw-driver husband, not to mention a fine ghost story, with Gisaburo's very patient ghost taking three years to finally bring himself justice, by forcing the community to press the horribly-incompetent (almost as inept as Doug McGrath's Sergeant Nash in the original 'Black Christmas'!) Inspector Hotta to eventually torture confessions out of the ill-fated duo. Another film to see with the person you love!...
June 7, 2015
Empire Of Passion is an unusual blend of eroticism and horror - but a great one, no less. It's also quite a change of pace from the director's previous work, In The Realm Of The Senses, which is a superb and provocative erotic film that had no qualms about showing explicit sexuality, including things like choking. Actually, come to think of it, this isn't TOO much of a change of pace now that I think about it. It's not nearly as explicit, though. You're not going to find choking or the lead actress putting food up her vagina in this film, as well as some other sexual escapades from that film.

While I prefer In The Realm Of The Senses, Empire Of Passion is a rather creepy, atmospheric, and sexy film about passion gone wrong mixed with a ghost story. If you love a good Asian horror flick, this is an underrated gem you need to check out. Let me try to explain why.

Set in the late 1800's the story follows a middle-aged woman named Seki who is married to a delivery man named Gisaburo who likes to get drunk and also has two children. She also has particular fondness for a young man named Toyoji, whom she treats like an older son. Though a simple, humble life, Seki seems content with her current life.

Toyoji on the other hand, is not content to be like a son to Seki and wants more from her, even though she is old enough to be his mother. One day, he even rapes Seki and she becomes submissive to him. Despite such a horrific encounter, the two begin an affair and soon begin to plot the murder of Gisaburo.

One night, Seki gets Gisaburo drunk on his favorite drink, and after he has passed out, the two proceed to strangle him to death and then dump his body down a well deep in the forest outside the village. Seki covers up the crime by telling the other villagers that Gisaburo has gone to Tokyo and hasn't come back.

Despite having Gisaburo out of the way, the two still have to conduct their affair in secrecy. Plus, the suspicion of the villagers is aroused by Toyoji's strange behavior of going into the woods and dumping leaves into the well on a frequent basis where they dumped Gisaburo's body. Also, Seki's own daughter becomes suspicious of her mother and what happened to her father.

If villager suspicions weren't bad enough, soon the couple is tormented by the ghost of Gisaburo whose presence becomes increasingly frightening and starts to drive the couple to madness over their misdeed, all while the suspicions of authorities begin to arise a few years after Gisaburo's disappearance, further straining their lives as they try to maintain the lies they've been telling the past few years.

While it's a simple story of passion gone wrong mixed with a simple ghost story, its blend is effective and it also allows for plenty of atmosphere and slow-building horror to take center stage. You won't find a shit-ton of jump scares, no in-your-face sort of horror - no modern horror cliches. Good, old-fashioned horror, but with the right amount of twists and variations to make it stand out.

The story also does a really good job at showing the development of such a hellish affair, and how the lives of this couple are slowly torn apart and descend into madness as Gisaburo torments them more and more. Like trying to escape one's past demons, there is no escape, and this film certainly highlights this fact in a scary way.

The acting is very solid with Tatsuya Fuji as Toyoji, who also played Kichizo in In the Realm Of The Senses. He proved to be rather frightening as he played the controlling Toyoji and how he manipulates a good-natured mother and wife into killing her own husband for the sake of an affair with a hostile and dangerous man.

Kazuko Yoshiyuki as Seki was quite interesting, especially as her character had such a fragile state of mind, which was shattered as her dead husband's ghost comes to torment her, even making her try to kill herself and one of her children in a house fire at one point. She was certainly an interesting character: a good person gone bad, and then regretting the life-altering decision afterward.

I must also give props to Takahiro Tamura as Gisaburo, as he proved to be a rather intimidating and menacing ghost that would drive just about anyone, no matter how much of sociopath they are, into the depths of madness if they dared wrong a ghost like his.

As far as entertainment goes, if you love a good, old-fashioned horror flick and are a fan of Asian horror flicks, this one provides a good dose of slow-building horror, atmosphere, and is genuinely unnerving...the best kind of horror film. Plus, the film also works as a passion gone wrong sort of tale, even if you're not big on horror. It's a deliciously creepy, sexy, atmospheric, and superb erotic horror film.

This film is sadly a lost gem, but if you ever come across it, you must watch it if you consider yourself a horror fan because it is truly one of the lost greats of its genre. It's dripping with atmosphere, tension, and scares at every turn, something that is sorely lacking in many modern horror films.
July 10, 2012
What if, --hold up--what if Double Indemnity took place in a JAPANESE VILLAGE, and there were no trains, and--wait for it--the husband...came back....as a GHOST?

Now gimme the dang Director prize at Cannes. SUCK IT BILLY!
Super Reviewer
December 18, 2009
"In the Realm of Passion" is somewhat of a sheep in wolf's clothing. Titled to suggest a sequel to the controversial "In the Realm of the Senses," "Passion" has little of the daring frankness which Nagisa Oshima fans might crave. Until some unsettling violence in the conclusion finally inserts some shock value, this is a surprisingly traditional ghost story. Really, it's not far from something Akira Kurosawa might have directed -- though Kurosawa's version would have a better score and more eloquent use of smoke and snow.The setting is a small Japanese village in 1895. Seki is married to Gisaburo, a rickshaw driver who works long hours. She begins an affair with Toyoji, a dashing, much younger man. After her lover -- a fan of giving oral sex -- urges her to shave her groin and then performs the deed himself (none of these scenes are explicit), he declares Gisaburo must be murdered because he'll otherwise see the shorn area and develop suspicions. After getting him drunk, Seki and Toyoji strangle him and dump his body down a derelict well.The two hardly benefit from the crime, since they still have to hide their affair from the neighbors. And soon enough, Gisaburo's eerie ghost begins materializing. He is very much a Shakespearean apparition -- the character simply adds reddened eyes and a ghoulishly painted face, and then solemnly enters scenes to remind the living of their guilt. (A howling village idiot with hidden understanding also seems archetypal of the genre, while another familiar persona -- a daughter with clairvoyant dreams -- is frustratingly underused.)Once snide mutterings increase amongst the villagers and an inspector begins prying into Gisaburo's disappearance, we know Seki and Toyoji are doomed. She wrestles with remorse, while he succumbs to an unconscious ritual not unlike Lady Macbeth's tortured hand-washing. Strangely, the film supplies a perfect resolution to their agony with about 10 minutes to go, then backs off and attaches a much less poetic end.The imagery is visually lovely -- the costumes, quaint dwellings and nature scenes are full of rich, earthy color. It's just that much of the film seems a bit conservative, coming from a director whose earlier work could be so raw and brutal.
½ August 2, 2011
63%?!? Come on people! This is as close to a masterpiece that can be made without actually being one. This film is beautiful-the beautiful outdoor and changing season setting is almost like something out of a storybook. This film totally sucks you in. It's a very involving ghost story that I actually prefer to the notorious "In the Realm of the Senses", though I do like that film too, I suppose. This one is more accessible, and certainly less explicit. This is the one that really got me into Oshima's work.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ August 23, 2010
[font=Century Gothic]Nagisa Oshima's "In the Realm of Passion" takes place in a Japanese village in 1895. Seki(Kazuko Yoshiyuki) is married to Gisaburo(Takuhiro Tamura), a rickshaw driver. She begins a tumultuous affair with Toyoji(Tatsuya Fuji) who just got out of the army and is 20 years her junior. After Toyoji blackmails her with the most unique scenario I've ever seen, she agrees to kill her husband with him. They succeed and dump Gisaburo's body in a well. The story recommences three years later...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"In the Realm of Passion" starts promisingly but the movie, by trying to be atmospheric, just succeeds in being murky. This is not as explicit as Oshima's "In the Realm of the Senses", thus showing much needed subtlety and self-control.[/font]
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