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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½ January 14, 2016
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.
½ February 17, 2015
The pace is painstakingly slow for the first 2/3 and then hurries to a melodramatic, abrupt ending. The cinematography is eye catching and there are several lovely shots and angles.
August 22, 2014
This is my favorite Nagisha Oshima film I've seen so far. The plot is simple: After a younger man seduces a married older woman, the two kill the older woman's husband but the husband's ghost returns to haunt them. The two lead characters are not very sympathetic yet the film manages to make you understand and feel for them. I also feel that this is sort of like a marriage between a film noir and '80s Hollywood erotic thrillers filtered through the prism of jidaigeki. It is strange, thrilling, erotic, heartbreaking shocking and utterly unpredictable. Beautifully shot and acted, it is an extraordinary piece of work. Highly recommended!
January 19, 2013
Mildly interesting Japanese murder-ghost drama. Drifts throughout and never really pulls you in. Performances are very unconvincing - much overacting.
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!
June 15, 2012
porn+horror=this one
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2012
"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 March 22, 2012
This film is a pretty graphic account of a Japanese folk tale of lovers who kill the woman's husband and are haunted by their own guilt and the husband's ghost. The film is much more restrained than Oshiima's previous film "In the Realm of the Sense" the sex is explicit, but not nearly as graphic as the previous film. Oshiima has shows he has full command of the medium with the haunting effectiveness of the his portryal of the guilt of the couple and the absolute passion they have for each other. I don't really have much to say about this right now honestly, I had a lot more to say ,but I forgot it... It is a powerful and unnerving film that really works quite well in its goal of expressing the guilt of a the couple and expressing the corruption of government/law officials.
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.
½ June 21, 2011
Made closely following the international pseudo porn hit "In the Realm of the Senses", Oshima depicts sex and violence as coming hand in hand, in a 19th century ghost story impeccably directed and accessible.
April 9, 2011
la fotogtafia increible...
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2011
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
January 17, 2011
I like the style of the movie since it was full of cultural aspect and good play from the actors..
September 7, 2010
This ghost story from Japanese director Nagisa √?shima is pretty good, but much different from the Asian ghost stories we've seen in the past few years. Made in 1978, it's all about some lovers that see the need to kill the woman's husband, and drop his body in a deep well. When the ghostly deceased husband reappears as a ghost to his Wife and others, the couple begin to worry that the town may find out, and their perfect plan will be discovered. That's beside the point, that the husband has returned as a ghost... or has he??? Pretty sexy movie, as this director is known, and will probably be of interest to fans of Asian horror.
September 1, 2010
an attractive japanese housewife, married to a rickshaw driver is raped by, then seduced into a relationship with, the town renegade. he convinces her to murder her husband so that they can be together. after they commit the act, the ghost of the murdered rickshaw driver returns home for his nightly cold sake...it's very eerie the way he keeps appearing. the 2 lovers' strange, paranoiac behaviors begin to ensue and the town's people start to take notice...
September 1, 2010
In the Realm of Boredom.
September 1, 2010
While at times being disturbing, it truly shows the "realm of passion". Some might think it as a porn movie or so, but the movie excellently shows the unlimited/boundless passion; taking you beyond all those.
September 1, 2010
Oshiman jatkoteos Aistien valtakunnalle joka oli kanavapäällikkömummon vastaus kysymykseen mitä haluaisit katsoa televisiosta: pornoa... Cannes voittaja vuodelta -78 josta on jätetty kaiken näyttäminen väliin ilman että juoni on kärsinyt.
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