DVD: Empire of Passion (Criterion)


Empire of Passion

English DVD Title (Region 1)

Empire of Passion


Japanese (1.0 Mono), English (1.0 Mono)

Aspect Ratio:

105 minutes


Empire of Passion



  • Menus (English)
  • Chapters (24)
  • Trailers: Empire of Passion (US)
  • Interview with actors Kazuo Yoshiyuki and Tatsuya Fuji (17 minutes)
  • Interview with production consultant Koji Wakamatsu and assistant directors Yusuke Narita and Yoichi Sai (13 minutes)
  • Double Obsession: Seki, Sada, and Oshima documentary (20 minutes)
  • Essay by critic and historian Tony Rayns and a 1978 interview with Nagisa Oshima (29 page booklet)



By: Anthony Romero

Criterion tackles director Nagisa Oshima's mildly supernatural film Empire of Passion. As one would hope, the company gives the 1978 production a stellar release here. It fires on cylinders in fact, having great video and audio quality while boasting a nice array of extras.

 Video: Star Rating

It's not perfect, but Criterion has done a solid job with the video track here. For the DVD format, details are rich in the frame without overt signs of compression. Colors are also good and look on the natural side, distinct without looking oversaturated. As for the shape of the print used for the transfer, I was surprised to see it be the French version rather than the Japanese release. This is overt on the intro and outro title cards. The shape of the print found is excellent, though. There are some scenes where there is a thin discolored line at the top and one moment where the blacks become more of a purple hue, but otherwise the condition is fantastic.

Empire of Passion is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio: Star Rating

To my surprise, the disc features two audio tracks. One is the original Japanese, presented in mono, and the other is an English dub track, also mono.

Quality wise, the Japanese one is stellar. There is nice clarity in the dialogue and the sometimes haunting music of Toru Takemitsu all comes through clear. As for the dub track, audio quality wise I was surprised by the fact that it didn't have any notable inconsistencies. While the performances are often lacking, and it does take creative liberties in the lines, it's fascinating to hear it as a contrast to the original Japanese.

The audio track can be supplemented by removable English subtitles. These subtitles correspond with the Japanese audio.


 Extras: Star Rating

Bonus content wise, Criterion has done a good job boasting 50 minutes of material. While it would have been nice to see a Japanese trailer, the release offers some nice variety in the bonus content included.

First up is the US trailer for the movie. This... is in bad shape. The video quality is quite poor, this includes the shape of the material and also a lot of obvious interlacing. While the audio quality is better it's still nothing to tout. The trailer itself isn't all that engaging either, as it's stills with scrolling text. Still, even in the awful shape it's presented, it's one of those "I'd rather they included it than not" situations.

Next up is a new interview, done in 2008, with the two principal actors of the production: Kazuo Yoshiyuki and Tatsuya Fuji. This new interview, created by Criterion, is fantastic. It's really nice to get the actors' perspective on things, both working with the director and also discussing their past work with each other as well. They also discuss working on the set, which was an abandoned village.

This is followed by an older interview from 2003. This one is with production consultant Koji Wakamatsu and assistant directors Yusuke Narita and Yoichi Sai. While not as captivating as the actor interview, it is fascinating to hear how different their experience was working with the director. In fact, it's noted that he was quite stern with them in contrast to the level of freedom he would give the actors.

Finally the disc also has a little documentary, or "video essay" as it's cited on the DVD case, called Double Obsession: Seki, Sada, and Oshima. Conducted by film historian and critic Catherine Russell, the 20 minute video covers the similarities in two of director Oshima's films. Those films are Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses (1976). While the delivery is a bit slow, the information and perspective given to the movies and director Oshima is solid, making this an overall nice little extra.

Looking outside the DVD, the booklet contained with this release is quite large, at 29 pages. It features an essay by critic Tony Rayns that covers the work of the director. Also found in the booklet is a 1978 interview with director Nagisa Oshima. This interview isn't all that captivating, but does allow some perspective of an interview done right when the film was released.


 Overview: Star Rating

Bottom line, Criterion did a solid job from a video, audio and extra perspective. With no weak aspects to speak of the release gets a solid recommendation for those who enjoy more artistic productions like this. Being a late DVD release, and currently no Blu-ray, this marks the best way to watch the movie today as well on home media.