Notable for gaining Ôshima internal acclaim in the cinema world and more or less transforming him from a Japanese filmmaker to a relatively cosmopolitan one (though his work would ultimately suffer as a result), the film is loosely based on the real-life story of Japanese Geisha-cum-prostitute Sada Abe and the huge scandal that she caused in Japan during the 1930s when she erotically asphyxiated her lover, Kichizo Ishida, chopped off his penis and testicles, and then carried them around with her in her kimono as if they were sacred good charms. Like one big long, erratic, and deleteriously intoxicating coital session that concludes with a such an enrapturing transcendental orgasmic climax that the inordinately virile male protagonist loses both his life and genitals in a sickening scenario that somehow seems logical in the end in the context of the lovers' lurid and insanely intense romance, In the Realm of the Senses is a film that is, above all us, about a totally raw and visceral chemistry based sexual love affair that is so dangerously potent and explosive that it can only end in death due to the ever increasing intensity of the crazed couple’s singular carnal majesty. Indeed, although a rather fittingly titled film since the debauched duo lives in a totally intoxicating and solely sensual-based hermetic demimonde, I still think it might be better renamed ‘La petite mort.’
While I sincerely expected the film to be pretentious artsy fartsy Jap pornography of the rather revolting sort disguised as a ‘mature’ arthouse flick, it proved to be, at least in my opinion, one of the few films ever made in cinema history where the sex scenes are an innate and imperative ingredient to the point where it would completely fall apart at the seams were it not so delicately explicit. Indeed, instead of watching two sex fiends fucking to simply fuck, Ôshima’s shockingly mirthful celluloid orgasm treats the viewers to two strangely sympathetic weirdoes making love to one another simply because they are so hopelessly in love and see virtually everything else in life as completely pointless. In short, even the most inordinately artful of porn flicks like Lasse Braun’s Body Love (1978), Cecil Howard’s Neon Nights (1981), and Stephen Sayadian’s Café Flesh (1982) seem like tasteless fucks flicks when compared to the exquisite eros of Ôshima’s arguable cinematic magnum opus. Bataillean in an oftentimes surprisingly humorous egg-in-a-pussy sort of fashion and almost pathologically politically incorrect in an oftentimes sadomasochistic fashion, In the Realm of the Senses also somehow manages to be almost just as absurdly comical as it is erotically cultivated and decadently romantic. In fact, the film is almost savagely sadistic in its humor as a uniquely unforgettable flick that features small children teasing an elderly bum by pocking his exposed shriveled prick with a flag stick, an insanely unmotherly heroine that sexually abuses a wee toddler by aggressively squeezing his genitals to the point where the little lad screams in pain, and a male protagonist that has no qualms about randomly molesting, raping, or sympathy-fucking Geisha gals of all ages and sizes while in the company of his beloved, among other things. Somewhat ironically, while I have always found the sort of absurdly sordid sexual fetishism depicted in Japanese cinema to be nothing short of insufferably ridiculous, if not downright sexually autistic, In the Realm of the Senses—a film that is certainly beyond vanilla as far as sexuality is concerned—proved to be an almost shockingly accessible film for me. Indeed, the flick might have been directed by a leftist degenerate of sorts and produced by a dubious Hebraic frog, but it certainly has something archaically universal about it in the way in manages to succeed where most pornography fails in its depiction of organic sexual obsession. It is also a rare film that demonstrates what it means for a man to find a cunt that feels and smells as natural and imperative as his own cock and vice versa.
As a completely cosmopolitan man descended from a respected samurai family that sympathized with Korean invaders, worshiped female power, actively sought to uproot organic Japanese culture and law, and directed what is arguably the least intrinsically Japanese film ever made (Max, Mon Amour) by a native Japanese filmmaker, Ôshima was the ultimate degenerate and a sort of contra Mishima as an artist that virtually made a career out of mocking and exploiting his own race and culture. After all, Yukio Mishima was certainly no puritan, yet he managed to find a way to seamlessly interweave the degeneracy of Occidental modernity with traditional Japanese aesthetics. Whereas Mishima infamously ended his life when he was at the height of both his artistic and physical powers, Ôshima degenerated into a sort of novelty ‘Uncle Wong' that merely faded away after only managing to direct one more feature over an almost three decade period before his death in early 2013. Of course, the greatest irony of Ôshima's legacy is that he will be best remembered as a weirdo Jap filmmaker that made weirdo Jap films and not as some highly successful cosmopolitan artist that was able to transcend both his race and culture. Surely, the auteur led the way for distinctly degenerate Japanese artist and chef like Mao Sugiyama, who underwent elective genital-removal surgery, cooked his dismembered cock and balls, and then served them to about half-a-dozen people at $250-a-plate during what can only be described as a carnally cannibalistic dinner party. As In the Realm of the Senses—a film that features a brief scene of non-cannibalistic culinary carnality—certainly demonstrates, only a Japanese filmmaker could make a rather rapturously erotic film where the characters spend the entire time fucking on a floor.