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THE FRUITS OF PASSION
DVD region 0. Nouveaux Pictures.

Ther Fruits of PassionThis classy French-Japanese co-production has never achieved the acclaim it deserves, possibly because it has always been in the shadow of it's predecessors, Ai No Corrida / In the Realm of the Senses and Ai No Borei / Empire Of Passion, both directed by Nagisa Oshima. While the credentials of the director allowed those two explicitly erotic movies to pass muster with the critics, The Fruits of Passion was much easier to dismiss as exploitation. That, plus the fact that it was made just as the moral backlash of the 1980's was kicking off and the original distribution was somewhat spotty saw the film languishing in relative obscurity until recently.

Me, I've always been a fan since I picked up a VHS copy over a decade ago in Amsterdam. Even though the mix of Japanese, French and English dialogue - all subtitled in Dutch - rendered it virtually incomprehensible, the visuals were astonishing. Thankfully, this English language edition is easier to follow.

Based on Pauline Reage's Story of O sequel Return to the Chateau, the film follows submissive 'O' and her master Sir Stephen (here played with scenery-chewing excess by Klaus Kinski) as they venture to China. As part of her contract of submission, 'O' has agreed to work in a brothel - not just any brothel though, but a spectacular wonderland of kinky sex and forbidden desires. The fetishistic sex scenes are the films most arresting moments as director Shuji Terayama explores fascinating aspects of oriental sexuality and bondage.

Interwoven in the story are subplots involving local politics and a planned uprising, and the love of a local peasant boy for the melancholic 'O' (played to sad-eyed perfection by Isabelle Illiers).

Kinski's outrageous autobiography Uncut refers to this film as full-on hardcore, and it's quite possible that explicit footage was shot - there's little doubt that the actor is actually fucking during his sex scenes - but only one brief moment of fellatio remains to tie this to the artcore porn of Ai No Corrida. It's not a bad thing though, as the film actually works better as an ultra-kinky BDSM tale.

As mentioned earlier, the visuals are astonishing - this is unquestionably one of the most beautiful looking films I've seen, with moments that leave you amazed. Combined with a steady, unhurried pace - very much in keeping with the story - and this is a movie which is overdue an artistic reassessment. As this edition is uncut, there's no excuse no to snap it up.

DAVID FLINT

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