Genre: Libidinous Morality Tale
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.
I have now seen (and reviewed) four of the five films, watching them in order of their production. The most brutal and difficult to moralize was the first, Angel Guts: High School Coed, which of all the films seems to take the perspective of the rapist(s). From the second film onward, however, Tsuchiya Nami, the central victim, became the primary figure and the examination of her post-rape difficulty and struggle became the core focus of the narrative. With each successive film, I became increasingly impressed with the manner in which each director reflected upon and warns against the social poison of rape. Though each film is chocked-full of sex scenes, some more bizarre than others, the lasting impression made upon audiences is due to the psychological turmoil and distress these characters must endure. This distress is not merely that which they experienced during rape, but which lingers with them on a daily basis thereafter. It alters their confidence, their reputation, their thinking, their behavior, often in stark and dismal ways.
On a whim of kindness, office secretary Tsuchiya Nami agrees to help her co-worker fill-in at her part-time job. "It's nothing difficult," the friend insists, "you just sit there. Any woman can do it." To Nami's shock however, the job involves a porno shoot for a magazine entitled Red Porno specializing in bondage and near-rape themes. Though frightened and struggling throughout the photo shoot, her ordeal finishes without any harm coming to her. Except, that is, until the magazine uses her photos on the cover of the latest issue, and she begins being harassed by perverts on the phone and stalked on her way home in the evenings. And that proves just the beginning. When her photos in the magazine are recognized by those in her work place, her job and future are threatened.
Meanwhile, one particularly obsessed fan of her photo spread in Red Porno is literally tracking Nami down in the hopes of somehow talking to her and starting a relationship. But as pure or diligent as his efforts might be, the dark spectre of rape and social disdain for sexual perversity prove overwhelming to his situation. Their involvement, whether willing or otherwise, in the seedy business of pornography sends both Nami and her stalker down dismal trajectories which leave them both is states of hopelessness and demise.
This film, as does Angel Guts: Nami, deals with the thin line between sexual fantasy and victimization. And this is the basis of these films' warning against flirting with images of what are otherwise crimes against women. Entertaining such thoughts, it is demonstrated, leads to all manner of irrevocable despair, often ending in the total destruction of the one involved. And these films clearly suggest that this holds as true for the woman in the photo as for the man looking at the photos. Though often buried quite deeply in prolonged, libidinous romps in the futon, the bath, or the playground, Red Porno carries a moral message which is quite profound and strikes at a rather lucrative industry in Japan to this day. For this reason, I have suggested that the Tenshi no Harawata films are literally deconstructing themselves, as their audiences realize that they too, along with those obsessed characters in the film, are watching sexualized depictions of crimes against women as entertainment, and thus the audience itself is warned against what it is doing at that very moment.
Red Porno is certainly deserving of the 'Extreme' epithet and is often graphic and blunt in its depictions. With an understanding of the film's background and intentions, however, its higher moral message is readily apparent. Red Porno offers gut-wrenching depictions of society's underbelly and the moral demise of those who become entangled therein. The message here is indeed powerful and haunting. It offers an unflinching look at the utter devastation brought upon innocent women by the sex industry and upon the social psyche through sexual perversity sold as entertainment.
|A stark warning and social commentary on the negative consequences of a flourishing pornography industry.||One brutal attack of a young woman, as if to demonstrate how debased non-idealized rape really is. One shotgun in the hands of a trembling, trigger-happy old man.||Yes, yes and yes, to a wide variety of sex scenes, including, bath scenes, window scenes, futon scenes, egg scenes(!), and much more. (All those scenes depict consensual couplings.) And for perhaps the first time in your life, you will long to be a lucky table (kotatsu) in Nami's bedroom. (Now there's a woody!!!)||B movie sex scenes with a rather profound moral message and equally dismal ending. Easily recommended to a certain audience (and you know who you are)!|