Sunday, 12 May 2013

Empire of Passion (1978) - ★★½

Director: Nagisa Oshima
Writers: Itoko Nakamura (Story), Nagisa Oshima
Stars: Tatsuya Fuji, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Takahiro Tamura

Empire of Passion is a majorly creepy movie. I'm not gonna lie, I felt the suspense all the way through it. That didn't stop the movie from being really boring though. All of the shouting and sex was overkill. Save for a few masterful scenes, Empire of Passion is a movie worth a watch, but not worth buying.

It's about the affair of a young man (Tatsuya Fuji) and a married older woman (Kazuko Yoshiyuki). They fall in love with each other and decide that they should kill her husband so that they can be together as much as possible. When the deed is done, they throw his corpse down a well and go on with their lives. However, his spirit can still be seen as he haunts them for what they've done.

This movie could have been really scary. The spirit itself scared the hell out of me with the heavy white-makeup and woeful eyes. Shame that you barely get to see it until the the last third of the movie. In the meantime, you're watching sex and arguments on repeat. Some of the sex scenes looked like they belong in a porno, rather than on the silver screen. One particular scene that made me cringe was when Fuji had to shave the woman's nether region. I didn't see the purpose of including that in the movie, except to pander to the 'horny and desperate' demographic.

I'm just gonna put this out there: I love Japanese cinema. Kurosawa, Miyazaki, Ozu and so many other film-makers have touched my hearts with their films. Now that that's out of the way, I will say something that may offend people. I dislike the way Japanese people argue in their films. It's not always bad, high emotions work well in certain cases; such as in Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961). What I hated about it in Empire of Passion was the way they kept shrieking and screaming. I've seen it in so many Japanese movies, TV Shows and Cartoons, it's just really annoying. It was the arguing that made this movie almost unbearable.

Now to the good part. Holy Freeholies this movie scared me at times! I think it was the subtlety of the spirit, the way it just appeared and stayed silent. It made a welcome change to the violent and loud ones we see in horror movies these days. This one just gave me the willies. In one scene, we see the spirit look down the well at his murderers, which actually made me scream aloud. My sister seldom gets scared of movies and that scene made her scream too. You could even debate that having the spirit lay-low and hardly appear in the film was a stroke of genius because it made his presence way more horrifying when he did show up.

So there you have it. In terms of horror, it's pretty good. As a whole, it's pretty average. The abundance of sex and shrieking made it really hard to enjoy. Upon reflection, I do suggest you see this film if only to see that one scene. When I think of this movie, I smile because of the way my sister and I screamed.

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