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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Empire of the Passions (Ai No Borei) (1978)

Empire of the Passions (Ai No Borei) (1978)

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Released 31-Mar-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Cinema & Censorship - The Films Of Nagisa Oshima
Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 100:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Nagisa Oshima

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Tatsuya Fuji
Kazuko Yoshiyuki
Takahiro Tamura
Takuzo Kawatani
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Tru Takemitsu

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.59:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.93:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Two years after the release of his most controversial film, In The Realm Of The Senses, Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima made a companion film, Empire Of The Passion (Ai No Borei). Known also by the alternate titles of Empire Of Passion and In The Realm Of Passion, this companion to In the Realm Of The Senses is a film that stands alone and is in no way a sequel. The screenplay was written by Oshima, which he adapted from the novel by Itoko Namura.

Anyone who has seen In The Realm Of The Senses will be aware of the explicit sex scenes, which caused the film to be banned or heavily censored in most countries. Oshima made Empire Of The Passion in a much more conventional style, toning down the few sex scenes to a very discrete level. Even the degree of nudity in this film is kept to a bare minimum (pun intended), with objects and clever camera angles blocking any glimpse of genitalia.

The basic plot of Empire Of The Passion sounds familiar. A mature woman is seduced by a younger man and the pair conspires to murder the woman's husband. Naturally, things start to fall apart after their dreadful deed has been done.

There is a subtle element of traditional Japanese ghost story in the narrative, which brings a freshness to Oshima's film. This also helps to sustain a degree of tension and enhance the films overall ambience. Empire Of The Passion has a dark and eerie presence, which is due mainly to the beautiful cinematography of Yoshio Miyajima.

While this film may not have the reputation of its predecessor, it's still a film well worth discovering. Empire Of The Passion missed out on the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1978, but won the Best Director award for Oshima.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.62:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. According to the Internet Movie Database, the correct aspect ratio for the film is 1.96:1 (negative ratio).

The transfer is reasonably sharp, although there is a slight softness overall, which I would assume is inherent in the source material. Blacks were bold and clean, while shadows exhibited a good degree of detail.

The film is quite dark for the most part, so the colours of the production design were rarely full and vibrant. This aided in setting the perfect atmosphere for the film. All colours appeared to be well balanced and natural.

There were no MPEG artefacts noticed in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were well controlled and film artefacts were rare.

Removable English subtitles are available on the DVD. They are easily legible in bold white.

This is single sided, dual layer disc. I could not locate the layer change on this DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


There is one audio track available on the DVD, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s).

Although my comprehension of the Japanese language is nil, the dialogue quality appeared to be very good.

There were no apparent problems with audio sync.

The original music score by Tru Takemitsu is a more conventional score than Minoru Miki's traditional score for In The Realm Of The Senses.

The surround channels and subwoofer were not required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of Tru Takemitsu's score.

Featurette - Cinema & Censorship - The Films of Nagisa Oshima (39:34)

This informative discussion with filmmaker, Solrun Hoaas was produced this year by Umbrella Entertainment exclusively for their Nagisa Oshima DVD releases. Solrun talks about Oshima's life and his career in film, which includes plenty of footage from many of his rarely seen films. Recommended viewing.

Note: This is the same extra that also features on the Umbrella release of Nagisa Oshima's, In The Realm Of The Senses.

Umbrella Trailers

  • La Bte (3:31)
  • A Short Film About Killing (2:36)
  • A Short Film About Love (2:30)
  • Queen Margot (2:12)

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    While there is an abundance of available DVD editions of In The Realm Of The Senses, there appears to be far less options for Empire Of The Passions.

    A US, region 0 version released in March 2000 by Fox Lorber is very basic. It has a pan & scan transfer, English and Japanese audio tracks, with no extras. A better option appears to be a UK, region 0 edition released by Nouveaux. This is a 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer with minor extras including, a stills gallery and a fifteen minute featurette.

    There seems to be no DVD edition of real significance that rivals this local Umbrella release.


    To a wider audience, Empire Of The Passion is a much more accessible film than it's predecessor. The combination of genres works really well and delivers a haunting outcome.

    The video and audio transfers are quite good.

    The Nagisa Oshima featurette is an excellent inclusion on the DVD.

  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Friday, May 02, 2008
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

    Other Reviews NONE