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DVD Review: Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties – Eclipse Series 21 (Criterion Collection)

Nagisa Oshima was one of the most respected Japanese filmmakers. The '60s brought about such creativity and vision for him that could only be described as part New Wave and part constructive randomness.

The Criterion Collection brings five of Oshima's least viewed films as part of its Eclipse series. The five-disc DVD set Eclipse 21 – Oshima's Outlaw Sixties brings restored versions of Pleasures Of The Flesh, Violence At Noon, Sing A Song Of Sex, Japanese Summer: Double Suicide, and Three Resurrected Drunkards.

Pleasures Of The Flesh (1965)

If you had money and you knew death would soon come, how would you spend your final days? Would you enjoy it peacefully? Violently? Excessively? Watch Life As A House with Kevin Kline if you chose option one. Watch Natural Born Killers if you chose option two. And watch Pleasures Of The Flesh if you chose option three.

Pleasures Of The Flesh portrays excess as a burden of lost dreams, unattainable love, requited lust, and universal greed. Atsushi Wakizaka (Katsuo Nakamura) falls for a girl (Shoko), commits a crime in her name, and is blackmailed by a witness of that crime.

The blackmail isn't something as lurid as murder, but instead something as unbelievable as safeguarding a load of money. The witness is a corrupt official (Hayami) who embezzled 100 million yen. Hayami anticipates getting caught and serving five years in prison. He entrusts Atsushi with 30 million yen in exchange for not telling the police about the murder.

However, Atsushi mustn't spend the money or else. Without much to look forward to since Shoko is married to another man, Atsushi decides to spend all of the money and commit suicide before Hayami is released.

Atsushi mixes love and lust repeatedly as he attempts to enjoy the seemingly last few months of his life. Atsushi lives the excess life (which might just serve as inspiration for the next MTV fake reality show) and soon realizes that he really cannot buy happiness.

Referred to as Oshima's venture into the then-popular Japanese eiga or "pink film" (soft-core) genre, Pleasures Of The Flesh has more elements of film noir than pornography (relatively speaking for 1960s Japanese cinema). Atsushi's spree of excess speaks louder in terms of the women who willingly join him than it does his own deliberate descent into madness.

Violence At Noon (1966)

"You mustn't expect a reward when you love."

"Love seeks no reward."

You hear these messages of love all the time. You say them just as often. You trust the feelings are reciprocated, but they aren't always. Even then, how can you really know?

Based on actual events, director Nagisa Oshima tells the stories of two women, Shino (Sae Kawaguchi) and Matsuko (Akiko Koyama), and the impacts on their lives from being raped by a man Eisuke (Kei Sato) they both know.

All three lived in a peaceful village founded on love. But that collective spirit clouds real emotions such as unhappiness and desire from developing to instead breed the more extreme versions.

No, Violence At Noon isn't a revenge film despite the fact that Matsuko is Eisuke's wife. And no, it isn't a romance despite the fact that Shino defends and protects Eisuke. It can be best described as a narrative of unrealistic expectations and humanity's true beast of nature as told through the fragile eyes of a criminal's victims.

Sing A Song Of Sex (1967)

Boys will be boys. I guess that old saying applies very much so to Oshima's Sing A Song Of Sex where actions and words flow freely from one to the next without a single care or thought. Imagine, after having just taken their university entrance exams, what are four young lads to do?

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I am a proud dork and loser.