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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.