Empire of Passion | Chicago Reader

Empire of Passion

Rated R 106 minutes

After the international success of In the Realm of the Senses (1976), French producer Anatole Dauman and Japanese director Nagisa Oshima collaborated again on this primal 1978 noir; it's another sexually charged period drama, set in a Japanese village in the 1890s, but the lovers shudder more with guilt than pleasure. The first half plays like James M. Cain, as a young lothario (Tatsuya Fuji) and a middle-aged wife and mother (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) conspire to kill her rickshaw-driver husband (in a grim fashion that nicely visualizes their shared culpability). The second half flirts with supernatural horror: visions of the dead man begin to drive his widow around the bend, and when she and her accomplice come together between the sheets, their sex is desperate with remorse. If Oshima was trying to atone for the pornographic excess of his big hit, no one seems to have noticed—this has also been released as In the Realm of Passion.

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