A recent effort from director Nagisa Oshima, perhaps best known for In the Realm of the Sense, Taboo continues his elegant exploration of sexuality and dangerous passions.
Imagine a samurai version of Death in Venice, and you have some sense of Taboo. The year is 1865, and a militia has two new recruits. One of them, Kano, is decidedly adrogynous, and the other recruit, Tashiro, promptly falls in love with him. As time goes on, more and more members of the militia fall u…der Kano’s spell, and the passions that erupt ultimately become lethal.
Narrating the story is a weathered old commander played by Beat Takeshi, and his performance is one of jaw-dropping control. As well, the film ends on an image of quite striking beauty. The narrative is, however, a little bit too elliptical to give the film the emotional impact the ending appears to demand.
The audio, in 2-channel surround, has got some very strong qualities. The left-right, front-rear separation is pronounced in a way that I haven’t encountered too often. Some sound effects come entirely from the rear. The hypnotic music is given a very solid mix too, but there is some distortion from the rear. As well, there are moments of soundtrack hiss.
The picture is very fine. There are no transfer problems, no grain, no pixellation. The format preserves the 1.66:1 widescreen ratio of the original. There is some haloing of the white subtitles, and I suppose the blacks could be a fraction darker, but these are very minor quibbles. All in all, this is a gorgeous film.
The menu is still but scored, though the score only plays once and then stops. The extras are brief bios of the leads, the director and the composer.
Despite the title, this is nowhere near as taboo-busting as In the Realm of the Senses. It is still an intriguing work, one whose elegance is matched by its presentation.
Special Features List
- Cast & Crew Bios