Mainstream Spotlight: In the Realm of the Senses

March 8, 2019 | Posted in Editorial Features by tucker-bankshot

Welcome back to Mainstream Spotlight where we take a look at theatrically released films that feature real, unsimulated sex scenes. Today we're tackling one of the most explicit mainstream films ever made in Japan, writer/director Nagisa Ôshima's 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses.

Throughout the 1970s, filmmakers began exploring ways to push the boundaries of newly loosened restrictions on violence, language, and sex in film. Director Nagisa Ôshima had begun pushing these boundaries in the late 60s with his sexually adventurous yet totally skinless films like Violence at Noon (1966) and Sing a Song of Sex (1967), but when he decided to make a film based on the true story of a geisha named Sada Abe, he was tackling something that was sure to be groundbreaking in terms of sex in Japanese cinema.

In the mid 1930s Tokyo, Sada Abe was working as a geisha and prostitute at a restaurant run by 42-year old Kichizō Ishida. The two began a passionate love affair in which they experimented with many things that were taboo at the time, most notably strangulation and choke play. Eventually she ended up choking Ishida to death, then severing his penis and carrying it, ahem, inside of her for several days.

Not exactly the kind of subject matter you'd expect out of a Japanese film in those days, but Ôshima got around Japan's notoriously strict censorship laws by making the film a French production and having all of the developing and editing of film occur in France. There are a lot of firsts for a mainstream Japanese film from being the first film with unsimulated sex to being the first time pubic hair was shown in a Japanese movie. Of course, these things earned the film a censored release in both Japan and the notoriously puritanical United States, but it has since been released uncensored in virtually every country.

When we first meet her ill-fated lover, Kichizō Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji), he is carrying on an affair with another one of his geisha girls, Toku (Aoi Nakajima) with the film's first penetration shot coming just three minutes into the movie...


Not long after, we meet Sada Abe, played in a truly go-for-broke performance by Eiko Matsuda, who flashes her bare bush for an old drunken coot just six minutes into the film...


We know immediately that she's a sexually adventurous woman, a trait that's going to both serve her well and spell her downfall. Her affair with Kichizo is torrid and explicit, featuring all manner of sexual depravity including the film's famous egg in the vagina scene...


She also gives him a blowjob while he disinterestedly lights a cigarette on the couch...


This is a short film, running only 104 minutes, so we get to the climax pretty quickly. 81 minutes in, the fateful sexual encounter that left Kichizo dead begins. Once again, you'll notice there's full insertion and she's choked him past the point of consciousness, just as she had many times during their various rendezvouses...


Unsure of how to deal with what she has done, she just simply puts his dick back inside herself and goes back to town...


Though we do see her sever her lover's penis, the film concludes with a post-script that explains how she carried it inside her for several days, sparing us the sight of any sort of extreme skingoria. In terms of self-destructive relationships on film, this is one of the most potent, most explosive, and certainly most destructive ever seen. It's a must for any fans of Japanese cinema or sexually themed art cinema in general and is available on disc through the Criterion Collection.

Catch Up With Past Editions of Mainstream Spotlight

The Brown Bunny



Nymphomaniac Vol. I

Nymphomaniac Vol. II


Header image courtesy of IMDb

Tagged in: aoi nakajima , blowjob , eiko matsuda , in the realm of the senses , mainstream spotlight , penetration , sexually explicit ,