In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) is a former prostitute who now works as a maid in a hotel, where she falls for the owner, Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji), an affair that starts simply with non-stop sex and continues to become an obsession, as she doesn’t want to share him even with his wife. Soon, their love games include strangling one another during sex and her holding a knife to his manhood, saying that she’s going to take it with her. Well, that’s exactly what happens, as she accidentally kills him while they make love and takes his member with her, walking with it inside her before she’s arrested.

Directed and written by Nagisa Ōshima, who also made Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, this is a rare mainstream film that doesn’t shy from unsimulated sex, made in a culture that even hides the mere glance at female genitals. It was made in France, while in Japan, it was fogged and blurred so that it could appear in theaters.

Eiko Matsuda had worked in sexploitation films but was never treated as harshly by the public as she was when this film was made, finally moving to France and ending her acting career. Society remains unfair, as her male partner in the movie, Tatsuya Fuji, regained his career after two years.

This was based on a true story and Sada Abe did not fade from the world after serving five years of her six-year sentence even though she asked for the death penalty. The police record of her interrogation and confession became a best-selling book. Over the next few years, the public perception of her moved from a pervert to someone who murdered for love. She acted in a traveling show and worked in a bar in downtown Tokyo for twenty years before appearing in Teruo Ishii’s documentary History of Bizarre Crimes by Women in the Meiji, Taishō, and Shōwa Eras. When  Oshima tried to find her before making this movie, he learned that she was in a nunnery, yet most reports claim that she disappeared.

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