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The Pleasures of the Flesh

1965 1h 44m Drama List
Reviews 61% Audience Score 100+ Ratings A murderer (Katsuo Nakamura) is blackmailed into hiding a suitcase full of embezzled money. Read More Read Less

Audience Reviews

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CKB What a strange movie experience -- director Nagisa Oshima employs a beautiful visual style in a movie that is filled with talk, talk, talk. Why clog up a fundamentally visual medium with so much exposition? Add to this a plot which revolves around the tawdry downward spiral of a man obsessed with the wrong woman in a supposedly ‘pink' film that approaches sexual relationships with clinical coldness. Atsushi, a young tutor who has fallen in love with his childish teenaged student Shoko, winds up murdering a vile man who had sexually abused her and is now trying to blackmail her parents. Atsushi pledges to not tell Shoko, but now he has a secret to conceal. Sure enough, a man shows up who witnessed the murder, and offers a strange deal: he won't go to the police if Atsushi keeps a suitcase full of money for five years, untouched, until the man gets out of jail (he's expecting to get caught, but the money is worth it). In the meantime Shoko has married, leaving Atsushi with the dumb idea that he will live his life out alone and miserable. What's with this guy? Director Oshima employs a device throughout in which we see Atsushi's fantasies as real, and now presents us with a confusing scene in which Shoko appears at Atsushi's apartment to declare she is miserable in her marriage, and apparently wants to be with Atsushi. Except when he offers to use his suitcase of money for them to live in happiness, she says something about her life being ruined, and then Atsushi is talking apparently to himself about how he'll spend the next year spending up all this money, then killing himself to avoid punishment. And what will he spend it on? Women! We don't know if Shoko was ever really there, or if this all happened inside Atsushi's head. Now the tawdry part begins, as nerdy Atsushi clumsily buys women who remind him of Shoko to live with him, offering them too much money to refuse. The first is a gangster's woman who works the situation to gain her freedom from everyone. The next is a woman married to a loser who Atsushi enjoys abusing until he realizes she loves misery. Next is a hard-headed intellectual doctor who tortures him by withholding her body from him. Last is a sweet deaf-mute prostitute, the only one who seems to simply want him without games, but this relationship is also doomed from the start. This strange exercise in empty relationships comes full circle with an appropriate O. Henry-style ending. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 02/23/23 Full Review Audience Member The first time I saw this film I hated it, but I sensed there was something there. The second time I saw it I enjoyed it. It's a film about a man who is literally insane, I didn't understand that the first time. There are reasons why he loses his sanity. It's a bizarre, surreal, half crime, half horror film that was surprisingly made in Japan in 1965 by an outcast director who formed his own studio to make it. It's clearly a cult film. I won't delve in the bizarre story. Suffice to say the man has hallucinations. There is an amazing scene near the end. I want to believe it's real (not a hallucination) but there is no way of knowing for sure. That's part of the greatness of this film. Lots of perverted and decadent Japanese in this film- people who are not insane and should know better but are thoroughly corrupted by the power of money. You see, the insane man has 30 million Yen to spend in one year, how he gets the money, why he gets the money and his initial fear of the money is what makes him insane. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Audience Member A terrifically framed film that hits hard with a message of irrational indulgence that still rings true to this day. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review Audience Member Sort of a subdued examination of a man who commits murder to protect a woman he loves. But as he receives a large sum of money he's not allowed to spend, he comes up with a different kind of escape. For a movie about living extravagantly and indulging in the physical pleasures, Pleasures of the Flesh is a remarkably tame movies, especially considering it is from the same director that gave us In the Realm of the Senses. Not that "tame" is necessarily problematic--there are lots of tame films out there. However, where Pleasure of the Flesh stumbles is in providing narrative without reason. None of these characters are particularly interesting. And, perhaps worse, none of them are sympathetic. Instead we're left with an hour and a half (per Hulu runtime) of the main character bumbling around apartments with sexual bravado (very little of which makes it to the screen). To help remove narrative interest, he hops around from woman to woman in the weirdest, most unexplained way possible. At first it makes sense--he has an expensive arrangement with a woman. But then without warning or explanation she's no longer in the picture and he's flashing money in front of another woman. And again. Repeat. Even in it's PG-esque innocence the whole thing ends up feeling rather crass. By the middle of the movie he's become the kind of asshole clown he murdered in the first place. The whole thing ends up feeling like a long sexual assault as he consider's the female's opinion less and less. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/07/23 Full Review Audience Member Released in 1965, Nagisa Oshima's take on the then popular 'Pink' genre is a stylish thriller that explores the depths of nihilism, materialism, and the price of pleasure. Katsuo Nakamura plays Wakizaka, a teacher who having murdered the rapist of one of his students (whom he loves) finds himself blackmailed into hiding 30,000,000 yen of stolen money. When the student he murdered for decides to get married however, Wakizaka decides to spend all the money on his every sexual impulse and in doing so descends into a spiral of increasing paranoia. A film noir in its very essence 'Pleasures of the Flesh' is a beautifully shot feature that uses its increasingly nightmarish cinematography to great effect. Moments of surrealistic editing become more and more frequent as the film progresses and increase the sense of claustrophobia and entrapment, making it feel as if viewers themselves are falling alongside the protagonist. As effective as this is the film does however stumble across moments in which it feels plodding, drawing viewers out of immersion and becoming slightly boring. The sequence in which Wakizaka attempts to win Keiko's love is an example of this, and although it houses one of the most beautiful moments in the film, it can't help but feel like it took too long getting there. Despite supposedly being a 'pink' film the onscreen sex and violence is surprisingly tame, and the lacklustre ending feels as if it doesn't have the courage to live up to the other films of the genre or the increasing sense of immolation that preceded it. Verdict: An interesting character study that occasionally strays off course and misses the mark with its ending. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review Audience Member Conflicts of Morality Every once in a while, I see movies that beat the Idiot Plot. The Idiot Plot, famously, is the plot that relies on no one's talking to anyone. If two of the characters just had one serious, open conversation--and often, it's any two--the plot would be resolved in minutes instead of dragging on for however long it does. And that's in-story minutes, too. However, occasionally, you get a Seriously Idiot Plot, one where everything could have been resolved by a conversation before the movie actually started. In this case, it's only a Seriously Idiot Plot if you assume that the first couple of minutes are flashback, but I think that's a safe assumption. The simple fact is, if the main character had only had a conversation with the woman he loves to tell her that he loves her, much would have gone differently. Though there is one detail on the subject that I'd like to get back to. Atsushi Wakizaka (Katsuo Nakamura) worked as a tutor while he was in college. His student was Shoko (Mariko Kaga). He fell in love with her. It turns out that she was molested as a child, and her molester returns ten years later to blackmail her parents on the subject. For . . . reasons, her parents cannot call the police, so instead, they convince Atsushi to kill the man for them. Only a man (Hayami, I think, played by Shôichi Ozawa) witnesses the crime. He decides that Atsushi should then be the person to hold on to millions of yen in government money that he's embezzled, because if Atsushi reveals it, or spends the money, he will go to prison. The man knows he is about to be discovered and will go to prison himself, probably for five years, but if he hides the money, he will have it upon his release. Atsushi agrees. Only when he finds out that Shoko is marrying a rich man, he falls into despair. It is a year until the embezzler gets out of prison, and Atsushi decides to spend the money in debauch for a year and then kill himself. I'm not sure if we find this out at the beginning; what we eventually learn, however, is that Shoko's husband was rich. (Or anyway believed to be; whether he actually was or not, I leave to the film to explain, because it leaves things in doubt.) This means I strongly suspect that she married him so that she could get the money. This means that Atsushi was out of luck even if he'd talked to her, or anyway he probably was. I have seen several Japanese movies from this era, and it leads me to believe that women did not always get to choose to marry the penniless tutor who loves them; sometimes, they had to marry the owner of the cosmetic company. Heck, they couldn't even afford to elope, it seems to me. Still, Atsushi did have a decent job; he'd tutored her years before, when he was still in college. She might not have had her parents' consent, but I'm not sure they would have been completely destitute--and her parents did owe him. None of the women in this movie seem to have any control over their own lives. One woman seems to think that her only choice in avoiding what Atsushi wants from her is suicide. One woman goes along with it because she needs to support her own husband and child. One is such a determined prostitute that, despite the enormous amount of money Atsushi is paying her to be with him, she goes out and walks the streets. I mean, I could argue that no one in this movie really seems in control of their own lives, but that doesn't seem entirely to be the point. The point is that the women have even less control than the men. There's also the issue of how Shoko's family "can't go to the police" over her molestation, that there is something about it that leaves them open to blackmail. I mean, did they sell her to her molester? I don't get it. It can't be a statute of limitations issue, because he never went to prison in the first place, and they know who he is. However, I suspect it's blaming the victim, that the girl is disgraced, not betrayed. The irony, of course, is that no one takes actual pleasure from flesh in this movie. Atsushi almost seems to be using it as a punishment. He has one year (parole apparently not being a possibility in this story), and he is spending it trying to make himself forget love. The way he chooses to do this is by burying himself in women, drowning in them. Only he doesn't really know any women except Shoko. The woman he takes on vacation (I missed most of the names, and neither IMDb nor Wikipedia has a plot summary, but I think it is Keiko, played by Hiroko Shimizu) appeared to me to be just some woman he picked up off the street. I'm pretty sure she let herself be picked up because she needed the money, which seems to be all any of the women in the story care about. Of course, if you don't have any real control over your life, money becomes a lot more important. Far more important than pleasure. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/12/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Pleasures of the Flesh

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis A murderer (Katsuo Nakamura) is blackmailed into hiding a suitcase full of embezzled money.
Director
Nagisa Ôshima
Producer
Masayuki Nakajima
Screenwriter
Nagisa Ôshima
Genre
Drama
Original Language
Japanese
Release Date (DVD)
May 18, 2010
Runtime
1h 44m