Genre: Experimental Film / Rape Theme
review in one breath
The series of five films all sharing the (partial) title Angel Guts derives from 1970's Japanese "horror" manga by Ishii Takashi. After an initial failure to successfully break into cinema, Ishii poured his creative energy into a manga series entitled Tenshi no Harawata (Angel Guts). Ishii's horrific manga was much more popular than his initial cinematic endeavor, and yet came full circle when its popularity resulted in the production of five films, the fifth of which Ishii himself directed.
Each of the five films in the Angel Guts series is directed by a (different) director and each thematically involves the rape of a young woman named Nami. Though each director approaches this theme differently, each is undoubtedly a stark depiction of violence and sex. The first in this series is the film under review here, entitled Angel Guts: High School Co-ed directed by Sone Chusei in 1978. Sone also directed the second in the series, entitled Angel Guts: Red Classroom (which I highly recommend you check out).
In order of production, the five films in the Angel Guts series are:
Angel Guts: High School Coed (Sone Chusei 1978)
Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Sone Chusei 1979)
Angel Guts: Nami (Tanaka Noboru 1978)
Angel Guts: Red Porno (Ikeda Toshiharu 1981)
Angel Guts: Red Dizziness (Ishii Takashi 1988)
It should immediately be said that the reference to "Guts" in the title does not refer to bowels or visceral organs, but to the inner tenacity and determination to survive and endure after being raped. These metaphorical "guts" are demonstrated repeatedly throughout the five films, and become the theme's backbone. In essence, each film tries in its own fashion to demonstrate the life-altering trauma which rape introduces to otherwise normal and unsuspecting victims.
The story presented in Sone's project is literally brimming with brutality and perverse loyalty. The main character is Kawashima Tetsuro, a hoodlum biker who is frequently terrorizing the streets alongside his fellow gang members Kajima and Sadakuni, and the opening scenes involve the three bikers harassing and eventually cornering a couple in their car, the driver of which they rob and the female passenger of which they rape. From this initial rape scene we learn that (a) none of these bikers have any modicum of respect for others, (b) both Tetsuro and Kajima freely rape whomever they please at will, and (c) Sadakuni angrily compensates for his sexual inadequacies by wielding a large knife. Here and elsewhere, the rape scenes are thorough and prolonged, and in line with classic Japanese-fantasy suggest that the victim cannot help but (slightly) enjoy the experience. (And this fantasy-laden perspective will in fact actually blossom and drive this plot's resolution.)
Testuro's seemingly simplistic immoral conscience proves more complicated when we learn that he lovingly cares for his junior high-aged sister, Megu(mi). In the absence of parental figures, Tetsuro serves as the father figure and thoroughly strives to protect Megu from the evils of society, of which he is all too familiar. This fatherly perspective toward the young Megu inadvertently results in Tetsuro's sudden intervention to save a similarly young (high school) girl, Tsuchiya Nami from Kajima's sexual attack. Though Nami is spared the humiliation of rape, the incident nearly destroys the cohesion of the gang and Tetsuro is compelled to apologize to Kajima. As a sign of his remorse, Kajima demands that Tetsuro rape Nami in front of the other two. To this Tetsuro agrees, which sets him on a clash of conscience, love and emotion which will destroy not only himself but all those around him.
This film is about rape. It is about rape through the eyes and fantasies of the perpetrator. It is about rape through the eyes of the victim. It involves extremely brutal depictions of rape, and rape which seems to suggest something meaningful through the presence of emotional background music. But if this film is about anything, it is the hypocritical duality with which we strive to protect those we love from the way we treat those we do not love. Unfortunately for Testuro, the chasm between these two behaviors was so deep that his attempt to bridge them resulted in serious failure. Perhaps a/the moral of Angel Guts: High School Co-ed is to not allow from the offset too radical a difference between our treatment of those we do and do not love.
That last part, of course, is only my wishful analysis of this film. Wishful because without such a moral, audiences of Angel Guts: High School Co-ed are simply in line for some hard-core brutality.
A year after this film, Sone directed the second in the Angel Guts series, entitled Red Classroom. The difference between these two film in terms of maturity and meaningfulness is quite stark. And while I personally have a hard time with films which seem to dwell solely on brutality and cruelty without apparent meaning or message (such as High School Co-ed), I can thoroughly recommend Sone's second effort with this same theme in Red Classroom.
|Culture buffs won't find much here besides a yellow 70's corvette (which is thrashed by the bikers).||Though slightly censored, this contains an *extremely* brutal rape scene (during Testuro's nightmare). Otherwise overflowing with realistic, dramatic attacks upon women and girls. (I mention that as a warning.)||Plenty of nudity, some even censored in the release I saw. Only one-third of the sex scenes involved voluntary coupling.||This is simply an exploration into sexual brutality.|