Ai No Corrida

  • Film
  • Drama
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The passage of time may have lessened the shock value of its graphic sexuality, but for sheer – pardon the expression – creative balls, this tale of 1930s amour fou remains startling even now. Heralding an unmissable BFI retrospective for Nagisa Oshima is an extended run for his no-holds-barred take on the notorious true-life story of Abe Sada, a prostitute found wandering in Tokyo carrying her innkeeper lover’s severed genitals. Oshima transforms the lurid details into a concentrated chamber drama which shifts from heady exuberance to disturbing death thrall, turning the porno come-hither of its shagged-senseless outline into something that’s powerfully unsettling and culturally resonant.

Where Lars von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ treated its hardcore elements as a mischievous stunt, Oshima’s film understands that in order for us to contemplate the meaning of this story – a ferocious counter-attack on Japanese patriarchy, perhaps even the rapacious ethos of Japanese imperialism chillingly refracted into the sexual sphere – we have to be inured to the bare flesh first. Curiously, the film’s insistence on reminding us that unabashed performers Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji have no use for body doubles somehow makes it less salacious. Since they’re persuasive actors into the bargain, the film permits a voyeurism that’s also emotive and thematic, taking the fierceness of longing to a horribly logical conclusion, yet also playing out the ultimate class/gender transgression of female chattel possessing male property owner. Unsanitised, worryingly convincing in its sadomasochistic detail, this is seriously provocative cinema, a telling reminder of what it really means to be dangerous.

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday August 28 2009
Duration: 101 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Nagisa Oshima
Screenwriter: Nagisa Oshima
Cast: Tatsuya Fuji
Eiko Matsuda
Aoi Nakajima
Meika Seri
Taiji Tonoyama
Hiroko Fuji
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