Ai no Korīda (愛のコリーダ), known as In the Realm of the Senses in English and L'Empire des sens in French, is a 1976 Franco-Japanese pornographic arthouse romance/drama film directed by Nagisa Oshima.note
The film is a semi-Biopic about the life of Sada Abe, who infamously strangled her lover before cutting off his genitals and carrying them around in her handbag, thus becoming a cultural icon. Set in Tokyo in 1936, Sada is played by Eiko Matsuda. Sada is a former prostitute who gets employed as a maid in a hotel. She begins a torrid affair with the hotel's owner, Kichizo Ishida (Tatsuya Fuji). The two engage in various sex games, including slapping each other, Kichizo urinating inside her, and Kichizo having sex with an old woman who comes to play music for them in front of her. Alas, Sada grows jealous of Kichizo's ongoing sexual relations with his actual wife, insisting that he should love only herself. Eventually, with his encouragement, she erotically aspyxiates him and cuts his genitals off so she can keep them inside her forever; with the film concluding with her painting "Sada Kichi the two of us forever," in blood on his chest.
Because bans in Japan on depictions of genitalia would have prevented Oshima from completing the film to his vision in that country, the production was officially listed as a French enterprise, and the undeveloped footage was shipped to France for processing and editing. The film does not so much examine Abe's status as a folk hero in Japan (although there were several Japanese films made exploring this topic before and since), but rather the power dynamics between Abe and Ishida. Many critics have written that the film is also an exploration of how eroticism in Japanese culture is often morbid or death-obsessed.
This film provides examples of:
- All Women Are Lustful: So lustful, that they will strangle their lovers and cut their dicks off so they can keep them inside them forever.
- Based on a True Story: In 1936 a woman named Sada Abe did indeed kill her man through erotic asphyxiation, cut off his penis afterwards and carried it around with her.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Sada's nymphomania might seem erotic at first, but after a while you realize she's actually a deranged lover.
- Bowdlerize: This film was released in Japan with many scenes censored, while other countries have banned it outright.
- Cassandra Truth: While Sada is away, the female inn manager tries to get Kichizo to leave, warning him that if he stays, Sada will eventually kill him. Not only does he refuse to listen to her, he promptly rapes her in response to her warning.
- Daydream Surprise: Sada walks in on Kichizo having sex with his wife. She is shocked and the next shot shows her grabbing a razor and slitting the wife's throat, whereupon Kichizo's wife screams in agony as blood gushes out of her artery... Then the scene turns out to just be a momentary fantasy and Sada is back to watching the two copulate.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: The climax of the film ends with this.
- Erotic Film: This is one of the few films in the genre that has gotten some kind or artistic acclaim by many movie critics, film history guides and was included in the Criterion Collection.
- Explicit Content: The film features unsimulated sex.
- Girl with Psycho Weapon: Sada with a knife.
- Groin Attack: Averted. Kichizo consents to having his penis cut off.
- Imagine Spot: Sada sees Kichizo having sex with another female servant. She then seemingly slashes the women's head with a knife, then the camera reveals nothing happened of the sort. It was just a fantasy in her mind.
- It's Not Porn, It's Art: This is one of the few erotic films which has a classy status in many countries and is praised for its cinematic qualities.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Kichizo is seen completely nude in many scenes.
- Minimalist Cast: For most of the film we're alone with Kichizo and Sada. A few minor characters appear, but always for one scene.
- Rape as Drama: Sada forces Kichizo to rape the older housemaid.
- Scenery Porn: The historical setting and inner decoration of the film are all done with the finest attention to detail and atmosphere.
- Shout-Out: The song Ai No Corrida (1980) by Chaz Jankel, covered in 1981 by Quincy Jones, lends its title from this film.