Review Date: January 30, 2001
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: June 20, 2000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes
It's the late 1920's, and China is coming apart at the seams; Communist rebels are plotting insurgencies everywhere in an attempt to drive out occupying foreign forces, and people are living in fear. Nonetheless, Englishman Sir Stephen (Klaus Kinski) decides to bring his lover to China with him, a beautiful young European girl known only as "O" (Isabelle Illiers). The girl is so madly in love with him that she's willing to do anything he desires, and to test that resolve Stephen orders her to submit to a life of prostitution in a local brothel. "O" accepts and agrees to a contract of service with the establishment.
The rules of the brothel are simple but harsh - to refuse a customer means you will receive a hundred and one lashes. To refuse a customer's request means you will be denied food for a hundred and one days. If you pray or commit some other religious act, you will be forced to fornicate with drug addicts and other scum. Nonetheless, "O" doesn't have any trouble following the rules and is soon put to work; Stephen takes pleasure in watching her and her clients from behind a panel in her room. However, Stephen also happens to have another lover, a French girl named Nathalie (Arielle Dombasle) who wants him to choose between her and "O", a choice which he's unwilling to make. She warns that "O" will simply end up leaving him anyway.
Meanwhile, Hukaku (Sayoko Yamagutchi), a teenage boy whose parents run a restaurant across the alley from the brothel, begins spying on "O" through her window. The problem is, Hukaku has no money, but that begins to change when he's recruited by the rebels, who pay him to run messages to different parts of the countryside. Eventually, he joins the movement outright and helps the guerrillas wipe out a police station that was helping British forces keep order in the city. Hukaku's fate slowly begins to converge with Stephen and "O"'s as she, as Nathalie predicted, begins to slowly drift apart from her lover.
Although I had been expecting a simple sex film, I was somewhat taken aback by Fruits of Passion
. Director Shuji Terayama takes every opportunity to distance himself from that genre, filling the movie with numerous little bits of alternate imagery (some of it quite startling, some of it contrived), real historical aspects of modern Chinese history, and other strange plot detours such as extended sequences with the other prostitutes in the house. Not surprisingly, none of these elements really fits together, but they do provide several interesting parts, including the story of a washed-up actress working in the brothel who still thinks that she's in the movies. Every time she receives a client they bring a movie camera and clapperboard up to her room to make her think she's just filming another scene - anything to make her work.
Of course, in the end the movie is still pretty much a sex flick, and reportedly everything that's happening onscreen is the real deal. The movie gets about as close to actual pornography as you'll find without going into the backroom of a video store. Although I didn't find the sex aspect very disturbing, I also didn't find it very interesting, either, and it was more of a distraction than anything else. If you're easily offended by sexual content, you probably won't want to watch this movie, but if you think you can handle it, Fruits of Passion
might be worth a rental.
Fruits of Passion
is presented letterboxed at 1.66:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The transfer was taken from a very nice-looking print with little noticeable damage and a good level of detail. Colors do seem a bit muted and undersaturated, but that's probably the way the film was shot. My only real complaint with the transfer is that there's quite a bit of grain, to the point of distraction in some scenes.
Anchor Bay has provided both the original French soundtrack and an English dub track, both in Dolby 2.0 Mono. The French track, however, is actually a mix of Japanese, French and English. Both tracks are free of background noise or distortion, although some of the dialogue on the French track seems a little low.
The only extra provided is a fairly good bio of Klaus Kinski.
This movie seems like an unusual release, even for Anchor Bay. It's been given a decent audio/video presentation, which should satisfy most viewers. The movie itself is not for all tastes, but the curious viewer will still want to see it.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B
Supplements – C
- Running Time - 1 hour 23 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 24 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital French 2.0
- Dolby Digital English 2.0
- English subtitles