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Film / Pleasures of the Flesh

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Pleasures of the Flesh is a 1965 film from Japan directed by Nagisa Oshima.

Atsushi is a poor, humble clerk who has a side job as tutor to a rich young woman named Shoko. Atsushi is consumed with unrequited love for his student. When a man who abused Shoko as a child returns to blackmail her family, Atsushi tracks him down on a train and murders him. This does not win him Shoko's hand. Worse, it earns him the attention of one Hayami, who was on the train and saw the murder. Hayami is a corrupt bureaucrat who has embezzled nearly a hundred million yen from the government. He knows that he's going to be caught pretty soon, so he gives Atsushi a briefcase full of cash and tells him to keep it safe while Hayami serves what he anticipates will be a five-year sentence. Hayami will retrieve the briefcase when he gets out of jail; in return, he won't tell the cops about Atsushi.

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Atsushi agrees to this plan, because he's a spineless weakling. But four years into the five-year deal, his beloved Shoko marries a rich guy. Despondent over this, Atsushi decides on a new course of action. He will spend the next year living it up, spending his way through all the thirty million yen, indulging in all the pleasures of the flesh—including female companionship.

Not an Erotic Film despite the title, as there is little sex and no nudity. A decade after this movie, however, Oshima explored similar themes in the erotic film In the Realm of the Senses.


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Tropes:

  • Briefcase Full of Money: Atsushi manages to spend all thirty million yen in the briefcase over the span of a year.
  • Blackmail
    • Shoko's unnamed child rapist makes a most ill-advised attempt.
    • Then Hayami blackmails Atsushi, but not for money. Instead he blackmails Atsushi to keep money for him.
  • Cuckold: Egi, Shizuko's husband. He goes to see Atsushi and thanks him for the million yen a month, while also implying that he wants more money.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: The five years elapses. Atsushi has spent all the money, only to find out that Hayami died in prison and isn't going to turn him then. Not only that, but Shoko comes to him, desperate for money for her husband who's on the edge of bankruptcy. She offers to do anything at all for him, with the implication being pretty obvious—but Atsushi doesn't have the money any more. And the last kick to the teeth comes after Atsushi explains everything to her, when she turns him in to the cops for murder.
  • Hallucinations: Atsushi sometimes has visions of Shoko. As his deadline looms, he starts to have hallucinations of Hayami, once even imagining that Hayami attacked him.
  • Narrator: Atsushi, mostly in the early going, as he explains about his relationship with Shoko.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Atsushi after sex with Shizuko. Because he's getting weirder by the day, he jabs her foot with the cigarette.
  • The Speechless: Atsushi's last companion, Mari the prostitute, is a mute.
  • Stealing from the Till: Hayami has embezzled 98 million yen, and he wants to find a place to hide thirty million of it before he's arrested.
  • Title Drop: The crooner at the nightclub where Atsushi picks up Hitomi sings of "the pleasures of the flesh."
  • Yakuza: How Atsushi loses his first sex companion, Hitomi. It turns out that she was the kept woman of a mob boss who gave her to his flunky, and now he wants her back.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Two of Atsushi's girls turn out to be married. Hitomi has left her yakuza husband. Shizuko is married with two children, but she accepts Atsushi's offer to be his mistress for a million yen a month, because her loser husband is unemployed and broke.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Sort of, and by his own design. Atsushi decides to spend all the money and then kill himself after a year, to avoid going to prison.
  • Yubitsume: Hayami's husband chopped off his finger and gave it to the yakuza boss in return for Hayami. Hayami then buys her freedom by slicing off her own finger, in front of everybody, and giving it to the yakuza.
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