Ecstasy of the Angels (Wakamatsu Koji 1972)


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Ecstasy of the Angels
[Tenshi No Kokotsu]

Genre: Extreme Youth Coming of Age (Political)

review in one breath

This film is the creation of Director Koji Wakamatsu who, after filming the Japanese Red Army in the Palestinian territories, became a target of both the Japanese government and Interpol, and was blacklisted by the American government. To this day he is unable to leave Japan.


Wakamatsu has been dubbed the "Master of the Pink Movie", referring to the radical politics and flashy scenes of sex and violence characteristic of his movies. During Japan's Sixties and Seventies he produced numerous films which were both shocking and celebrated. His film "Affairs in the Wall" (1965) was selected as an entry in the Berlin Film Festival, and his production of Nagisa Oshima’s "In the Realm of the Senses" (1976) received critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. He has directed over 100 films.

Wakamatsu had the opportunity to watch the violent student revolutions in Tokyo during the late 60's and early 70's. In interviews he has explained how, while filming what he believed would be a final and deciding clash between students and police, he observed that the student movements ultimately failed to prevail due to their personal allegiances to subgroups within the overall movement. These allegiances fragmented the focus of the movement and allowed police to overcome the crowd. Wakamatsu's conclusion was that in order for the movement to be successful, it would have had to be a radically individualized, non-allegianced revolution. He fully explores this idea of a radicalized revolution in Ecstasy of the Angels.

This movie is a roller-coaster ride of violence, sex and revolutionary politics. The highly structured revolutionary movement consists of a hierarchy of cells, each led by a "general" whose name corresponds to his/her rank. Our story begins as the general named "October" and his army consisting of soldiers named after the days of the week, infiltrate a US weapons depot and steal several cases of "hand bombs". During their escape, several of October's soldiers are killed and he himself is permanently blinded by the blast of a mishandled crate of bombs. Due to this handicap, the movement's highest authority (named "Year") deems October incapable of completing the mission of bombing Tokyo authorities and sends "Winter's February", general of another faction, to obtain October's remaining bombs through any means necessary. Scenes of violence and sex ensue.

The degradation of being stripped of authority by the movement causes October and his soldiers to undergo a radical shift in their approach to accomplishing their strongly-held revolutionary vision. Initial meaningfulness found in membership in the Year is gradually displaced by a radical commitment to self-fulfillment of the movement's ideal. One by one, our characters take things into their own hands to the dismay of both the Year's leadership and fellow soldiers. The movie crescendos in each individual's full realization of the revolution's ideal and the ultimate sacrifice it requires.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Tale of Tokyo's radical student movement, told by a director deemed dangerous by Western democracies! The DVD has a very interesting interview with Wakamatsu. One rather shocking scene involving the use of "any means necessary" to extract information. Other scenes of more generalized violence involve gun fights, alot of bomb-throwing, and good old fashioned fist fights. Also ample instances of tripping, slapping and verbally abusing the movie's square nerd character. Rather copius amounts of sex and nudity, often in that order. This movie attempts shock value (and achieves it) and is rightly described as belonging to "a mindbending Cinemascope paradise of samurai swordfests, crazed yakuza thrillers and low-budget erotica." (Netflix)

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