Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 18
In the Realm of the Senses October 8, 1976
In the Realm of the Senses released in Japan

On this day in 1976, one of the most controversial movies of all time, Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (aka Ai No Corrida), opened in Oshima’s native Japan. The sexually explicit film told the real-life tale of the torrid love affair between hotel maid Sada Abe and her boss Kichizo Ishida, which famously ended when Abe asphyxiated Ishida during sex, and then cut off his penis and testicles (which she then carried in her handbag). Any film tackling this subject would inevitably been mired in controversy, however Oshima pushed the envelope even further during the production of the movie by having his actors Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji engage in unsimulated sex for their highly charged love scenes. To get around Japanese censorship laws, In the Realm of the Senses was deemed a French film, with the footage being sent to France, where it was subsequently edited. When Oshima had completed the film, he premiered it in May 1976 at the Cannes Film Festival, where interest was so great that an unprecedented 13 screenings had to be organized. When the film was released in Japan in October of that year, five minutes had been cut from the original 113 minute version, and many shots had been blurred to obscure the actors’ nudity. The fact that Senses was released in Japan at all was impressive: it was banned after screenings at the New York and Berlin Film Festivals (though both rulings were later overturned), and wasn’t publicly shown in Britain or Canada until the 1990s. In 2000, a full-length version entitled Ai No Corrida 2000 was finally released in Japan, although the actors’ genitalia were still obscured, this time by pixelation.


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