Genre: Morality Tale Exploring Irrevocable Demise and Depravity
review in one breath
The Angel Guts series consists of five films based on the 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. Most 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.
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.
Angel Guts: Red Classroom, the film under review here, is the second film in the series and is directed by Sone Chusei. Sone also directed the series' first film Angel Guts: High School Coed (1978), a brutal exploration of Ishii's rape theme. Unlike his first film however, which in many ways glorified rape through the rapist's own twisted perspective, Sone's Red Classroom offers a dismally realistic and moving morality tale regarding the irrevocable damage caused by rape. In the year's time between the two films, the gut wrenching brutality of Sone's treatment of the rape theme in High School Coed had transformed into a mature and thought-provoking tale of the destruction of moral conscience.
Muraki Testuo sits among a seedy audience gaping at rather old and crumbling bootleg pornography ("blue film") in a dark, smoke-filled basement. This particular film is of a high school girl being attacked and raped in a school classroom by three youth. Muraki is exceptionally struck by the girl's expression and demeanor, and following the film strives to find more about the girl. And Murakami is one quite familiar with the demeanor and look of girls within porno films, as he himself is a photographer for Guravaru Magazine which specializes in naughty pictures. The look of the girl in the film, however, was different from any he had ever seen, and he is quickly obsessed with her as a piece of art.
When Muraki finally stumbles across the girl, now a woman many years after the making of the blue film, he is shocked to discover how she degrades herself at the mere mention of the film, as if he is somehow blackmailing her for sex. He then learns that she was neither a model nor a voluntary participant of the film, and that she was in fact raped during that scene captured forever on film. She confesses to Muraki that countless men have claimed to recognize her and that she had been willing to do anything to convince them to forget her and never return. However Muraki's intentions are quite noble and provides a glimmer of hope to the woman, suggesting she merely work with him in his photographic endeavor. He promises to meet with her the following evening in the park and it is obvious that the woman is nearly overcome with emotion at the thought of someone looking past her being raped. As he leaves he asks the woman her name, and she quietly replies Tsuchiya Nami.
But when Muraki is inadvertently detained by police and unable to make his promised appointment, an entire three years will pass before he catches up with Nami again, but by that time, Nami has all but thrown herself into the lowest and most degrading levels of society, dragging every man she encounters into the depths with her. When at last Muraki coincidentally meets her, he suddenly finds himself thoroughly enmeshed in her dangerous world of utter debauchery and humiliation.
Angel Guts: Red Classroom is actually quite a thought-provoking film. The title itself hints at this complexity by declaring that the blue-hued classroom of the original rape scene in the "blue film" is in fact a red classroom. Audiences will realize that the only element which turns this otherwise blue classroom into red is Nami's inner rage and self-destruction. In fact, this entire film depicts Nami's uncontrollable spiral toward self-annihilation following the unforgettable humiliation and dehumanization of rape. Thus despite Muraki's worldy-wise insight and noble intent, his best effort proves far less than adequate to overcome the serious consequence from the damage inflicted upon Nami.
Sone's Angel Guts: High School Coed contained several prolonged sex scenes, only about one-third of which depicted voluntary sex. The number and duration of sex scenes in Red Classroom is quite HUMONGOUS, rivaling perhaps even libidinous classics such as In the Realm of the Senses and Nama Gomi. Thus while I say this film is thought-provoking, you can anticipate the little head thinking as hard as the big head, if you catch my drift... (Also of *great* note -- following a viewing of High School Coed -- is the fact that none of the sex scenes in this film, with the exception of the original, subdued blue film scene, involve rape or abuse.)
ANYWAY, here is an excellent fringe Japanese film which pushes the flesh envelope in a meaningful and thoughtful manner.
|Here is a dark and foreboding morality tale chocked full of steamy sex scenes to aid your moral contemplation.||Though subdued, the initial blue film scene certainly implies a sexual attack. And Muraki gets the sushi kicked out of him a couple times by a depressed yakuza wannabe in a bright red jump suit. (!)||"Nami" must be the Japanese term for "Nympho". Wind her up and watch her go (or come?). It is clear that Sone is pushing boundaries here, and even some of his scenes will have shadowy censorship hovering over presumably exposed love machinery.||Red Classroom is both fringe and thoughtful, undoubtedly a rare and wonderful combination.|