Repertory Picks

Oshima’s Erotic Horror in Austin

Tomorrow evening, just before sunset, Nagisa Oshima’s ghost story Empire of Passion (1978) will materialize at the Austin Film Society Cinema in Texas, as the theater continues its monthlong retrospective series devoted to the Japanese auteur. On the heels of In the Realm of the Senses (1976), a succès de scandale that shattered taboos and revitalized the director after several years away from filmmaking, Oshima turned to Passion, another erotic (if less explicit) study of a destructive love affair. And for the film—a genre-bending and visually arresting tale of an adulterous couple whose bad deeds quite literally come back to haunt them—Oshima wound up receiving one of the highest honors of his career: the best director award at Cannes. “The visual idiom that Oshima chose . . . does evoke the horror movie tradition with its swirling mists and chiaroscuro lighting, but only to emphasize how far the film is from any generic roots,” writes Tony Rayns in his liner essay for our edition of the evocative and intense period piece. The filmmaker “shows both domestic life and the workings of the 1895 rural economy in great detail—and then complicates the picture by exploring the central characters’ private passions.”

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