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In the Realm of James Ferman

Friday 21 August 2009, 13:00

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

An Oshima retrospective at the BFI recalls a revealing story about the true nature of film censorship in the UK, in this instance concerning the Japanese master's most famous and notorious masterpiece, Ai No Corrida AKA In the Realm of the Senses.

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    Comment number 1.

    Interesting. I'd not heard of this film or it's history. I wonder why the censor was happy to reframe the shot in question rather than reject the film entirely. Is what appears on screen more important than what we know happened during filming?

    If I submitted for publication a scientific paper, part of which described the unethical treatment of animals, any editor would reject the paper outright rather than asking for the offending section to be removed. So I wonder if there are different rules in cinema.

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    Comment number 2.

    Thanks for that insight into the inner works of censorship. All too often we only get to hear the stories of outright bans, hack-job cuts and edits and just negative censorship in general. It's great to learn of the pains some people with the power to just stop a film release in its tracks will go to in order to ensure that is not the final outcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Interesting post Dr. K,
    I've always had a problem with film censorship and distribution laws.
    It seems that some films and genres can smash boundaries of what is seen to be politically correct, for example Eli Roth's 'Hostel' series, yet other films, especially those of a sexual orientation have so much difficulty passing though the censors uncut.

    Surely graphic violence and torture is more un-pc than passionate intercourse?

    I'm in total agreement with the BFI for not re-editing the reel however, editing already released material can be fatal for film.
    The pond sequence in 'Frankenstein' is a prime example of editing gone wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    only know am i beginning to have some trust in the bbfc. at the time of the release(on video) of 'reservoir dogs' i was patronised by the bbfc and their reasons not to give it a video certificate but they gave the more shocking 'man bites dog' a release on the grounds that 'man bites dog' would have a more art house audience

    on a similar note, in the news recently they have not given some japanese horror film a certificate. anyone know why?

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    Comment number 5.

    Ref the Japanese film which has not been given a release (Grotesque?) I understand that this was because the film was basically using sexual violence for no other reason than pure titilation.


    I'm not a supporter of any kind of sensorship, but I feel sympathetic to that decision: if there is no artistic or social merit, or otherwise no point to what is being depicted beyond sadistic thrills, should a film be granted a release purely on the grounds that not to do so is censorship? It's a subjective matter of course, but to use a slightly over-worn phrase...someone has to do it.

    I was encouraged to hear that in the history of ai no corrida, James Ferman had fought hard (and worked rather creatively) to ensure the film was passed with no cuts. Does this mean that we should inherently trust the censor? Of course not, but I still feel that it is right to challenge something that uses sexual voilence as entertainment.

    For an interesting Dr. K rant on the nature of meritricious, artless use of violence, check out his 5 live review of Rambo:



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