Thursday, August 25, 2016

Empire of Passion (1978)

Director: Nagia Oshima
Starring: Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura, Takuzo Kawatani, Akiko Koyama, Taiji Tonoyama, Sumie Sasaki, Eizo Kitamura, Masami Hasegawa, Kenzo Kawarasaki

A hard-working married pair living in a small, rural village loss all sexual chemistry over the years. Making things worse is a young, frustrated man, Toyoji (Fuji), who continually pursues the woman of the house, Seki (Yoshiyuki). Seki ultimately gives in to her wild desires and the two begin a mad love affair. So intense, they plot to kill her husband, Gisaburo (Tamura), however the outcome leads to a plague of guilt and suspicion.

Hot off the aggressive Oshima production In the Realm of the Senses, which focuses on similar sexual themes, comes this impressive, haunting tale that works on style over substance. That's not to say this erotic fable of betrayal isn't worthy, it's that we're given such a colourful, poetic point-of-view that the story itself doesn't entirely uphold interest during segments and the ghost elements are a welcome contribution.

Works from a tragic Shakespearean mast and held together by fulfilling performances from the three leads. I'm not used to this type of over-sexual tension that I struggled to follow the two leads and mostly focused my attention on Tamura's Gisaburo, a striking visual ghost in the classic Japanese sense. Oshima won Best Director at the '78 Cannes Film Festival. Yoshio Miyajima's cinematography is a spectacular feast.


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