DID YOU READ

In the Realm of Pornography?

In the Realm of Pornography? (photo)

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The Criterion Collection version of Nagisa Oshima’s controversial “In the Realm of the Senses” that came to DVD and Blu-ray this week is listed on Criterion’s web site as running 108 minutes long. That number corresponds with the length of the film’s “original version” given by IMDb, though the site also lists a 109-minute version from the U.K., a 107-minute version from Australia, and a 98-minute version from Argentina. There seems to be a different cut for every country that’s willing to show the film (unlike its native Japan, where it remains banned). The movie is almost an indecency Rorschach test — it’d be fascinating, if a little horrifying, to compare all the different cuts side-by-side, to see what each culture found unacceptable by its moral standards. (By the way, IMDb does not mention a 95-minute cut, which is the length of the film on the previous DVD edition from Fox Lorber that’s currently available from Netflix).

So what’s the big deal? Oshima’s film was made in 1976, relatively late in the decade’s wave of art films that dared to explore sexuality seriously — “Last Tango in Paris” and its notorious butter scene, for instance, came out four years earlier. One key difference, though, between “Senses” and most of its predecessors, was its degree of explicitness. Some of the sexual acts between stars Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji were simulated, but some were not. Nowadays, unsimulated sexual activity between actors in a non-pornographic movie isn’t all that uncommon; in just the last few years, the technique’s been employed in films like “The Brown Bunny,” “9 Songs,” “Shortbus,” “Ken Park” and “Anatomy of Hell.” But back in 1976, the line between pornography and art films with real sex was a bit fuzzier; or at the very least, the fact that there could be a distinction between pornography and an art film with real sex was a serious discussion.

The inexorable march of time and the accumulated effect of several decades’ worth of subsequent envelope-pushing cinema has neutered the impact of “Senses,” at least on a graphic level. Some of it remains skeezy — personally speaking, I do not need to see a woman stick an egg in her vagina, but maybe that’s just me — yet little of it remains offensive. What ability the film has today to shock audiences has as much to do with the emotional implications of the story as its more detailed imagery.

04282009_RealmoftheSenses2.jpgMatsuda plays Sada Abe, a former prostitute who’s become a servant to a hotel owner named Kichizo Ishida, played by Fuji. The two begin sneaking around behind Ishida’s wife’s back, and their affair quickly escalates in intensity. Their passion moves swiftly from all-consuming to self-destructive: hitting each other during sex leads to erotic asphyxiation, which leads to the film’s infamous finale, where Abe, after choking Ishida to death, severs his penis and writes “Sada & Kichi The Two Of Us Forever” on his lifeless chest in his own blood.

The story only becomes more unsettling when you discover it’s based on a true-life case that took places in Japan decades before Lorena Bobbitt’s name became a setup and punchline unto itself. The very last line of narration from “In the Realm of the Senses” tells us Abe’s final fate and informs the audience that “it happened in 1936.” And indeed it did — as in the film, the real-life Abe and Ishida embarked on a sexually adventurous affair that concluded with Ishida’s mid-coitus murder and castration.

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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