(aka 'Ai no borei' or 'Empire of Passion')

Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Japan 1978

 

With an arresting mix of eroticism and horror, Oshima plunges the viewer into a nightmarish tale of guilt and retribution in Empire of Passion (Ai no borei). Set in a Japanese village at the end of the nineteenth century, the film details the emotional and physical downfall of a married woman and her younger lover following their decision to murder her husband and dump his body in a well. Empire of Passion was Oshima’s only true kaidan (Japanese ghost story), and the film, a savage, unrelenting experience, earned him the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 6th, 1978

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #467 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:45:12 
Video 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.81 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0), DUB: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Double Obsession: Seki, Sada, and Oshima, a new video essay by film historian and critic Catherine Russell (20;15)
• New interviews with actors Kazuo Yoshiyuki and Tatsuya Fuji (17:04)
• An interview program from 2003 featuring production consultant Koji Wakamatsu and assistant directors Yusuke Narita and Yoichi Sai (13:16)
• U.S. trailer (1:51)
• 30-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns and a 1978 interview with Nagisa Oshima

DVD Release Date: April 28th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 24

 

Comments:

NOTE: Per-Olof has sent us two caps of the Atlantic Film (Swedish edition - no Eng subs) for comparison - last 2 captures. As he says "...you get a good idea of how good the Criterion is...." - Thanks Per-Olof!

Although there are other DVD version of this film (UK and Australian editions I believe,) I don't own to compare.

I really enjoyed this film... and DVD image. The transfer is dual-layered, progressive and anamorphic in a 1.66 aspect ratio - which I have no reason to suggest is not correct although IMDb indicates a production negative ratio of 1.96:1. Detail and most other visual attributes are consistent and at a high level. The transfer is clean - colors are lifelike and contrast is at Criterion's usual lofty plateau. The film showcases some fabulous cinematographic shots and Criterion's rendering has them looking pristine. This is one title I'd love to have seen initially in high-definition Blu-ray.

Aside from a flat, original, Japanese mono track there is also an included, untested, English DUB accompanying the film. As per standard, Criterion offer detailed translations in the form of optional English subtitles (that, by the way, don't precisely match the English DUB - for those who are concerned these aren't DUB-titles).  

Extras don't include a commentary but there are some viable featurettes starting with the 20-minute Double Obsession: Seki, Sada, and Oshima. It is a new video essay by film historian and critic Catherine Russell (author and professor of film studies at Concordia University in Montreal.) It has double screens pairing Empire of Passion with Oshima's preceding film In the Realm of the Senses. There are some interviews - 17-minutes with actors Kazuo Yoshiyuki and Tatsuya Fuji and from 2003 production consultant Koji Wakamatsu and assistant directors Yusuke Narita and Yoichi Sai running 13-minutes. There is the U.S. trailer (1:51) although the film was Japan's submission to the 51st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language entry, it was not accepted as a nominee. There is a wonderful 30-page liner notes booklet with photos and featuring an essay by renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns and a 1978 interview with Nagisa Oshima.

I loved the horror aspect of the film whose style definitely puts one in mind of Kobayashi's Kwaidan. The violence aspects of Empire of Passion seem less invested than In the Realm of the Senses. As usual Criterion has all it's ducks in line and this DVD looks great, with solid extras and the film is one I strongly recommend! 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Criterion TOP vs. Atlantic Film's Swedish edition (no Eng subs.) BOTTOM
 

 

 

 


Criterion TOP vs. Atlantic Film's Swedish edition (no Eng subs.) BOTTOM
 

 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #467 - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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