It's a Japanese Pinky Violence film that, even by the standards of the genre, is exploitative, disturbing, thinly plotted, politically extreme and will make you feel kind of dirty.
We begin with a "discipline squad" that's effectively an execution squad. They're supposedly five schoolgirls in armbands, although if those actresses are school age, then I'm Abraham Lincoln. They tear open their victim's shirt and use a scalpel on her breast, then get a needle and a big glass flask and... ugh. I got a bit queasy. This is spectacularly unpleasant, but it's also really stylishly shot. Dario Argento would approve. Suzuki includes quick cuts of stuffed animals, then later starts cutting away to ordinary school activities (a classroom, a tennis court). It's a horror movie opening, until the victim starts going berserk.
Shortly afterwards, the (male) authorities are conspiring to cover up a death.
The location of these jolly pranks is Hope School, an institution that prides itself on having taken in and rehabilitated hundreds of delinquent girls. That discipline squad operates with the approval of the Vice-Principal, although he's not happy about the death because the school anniversary is coming up. We now switch to some delinquents, who will presumably be heading back to school. These include:
(a) Miki Sugimoto, who steals a car, beats up its owner when he catches her and then starts a fight with a policeman.
(b) Reiko Ike, who decides it would be fun to beat up four male toughs in the street, nearly unprovoked. She uses fists and a razor blade.
(c) Another girl who sends a truck off the road by giving its driver a hand job.
To my surprise, Reiko Ike doesn't play a schoolgirl and is missing from most of the action. (In fairness, she really doesn't look like a teenager.) Instead she's a gang boss with a grudge against Sugimoto who gets an awe-inspiring entrance halfway through when she rides her motorbike into the school. However all you need to know is that Sugimoto is about to be sent to Hope School. This is going to be nuclear.
I called the film exploitative. Pinky Violence is of course technically exploitation, but the best films of this genre don't feel exploitative because the nudity feels almost incidental compared to the violence, gang war and all-out feminist revenge. This on the other hand pushes the nudity far enough that you can't help but notice it, especially when they add in torture, lesbianism, schoolgirl sex and some deeply uncomfortable power relationships. The camera lingers in the gratuitous shower scene, even if the scene serves a dramatic purpose too by showing us the pettiness of the discipline squad's regime. ("This shower is for committee members only!") It's a fascist dictatorship, basically, but run by schoolgirls. It's exactly the same kind of power-crazed bullying.
The bisexual slut character is kind of uncomfortable to watch, especially when we're asked to believe that a lesbian near-rape in the toilet will cause the passion-crazed victim to lose control of her faculties and admit incriminating information.
There are also fetishes. Schoolgirl sex torture? Schoolgirl group sex scenes with older men? Forced urination? (If you want to look up "omorashi", wikipedia thinks this is the first theatrical film to show it, although I think the sexual pleasure element is at best open to interpretation.) Did you ever want to see a girl on the toilet? Here's your chance.
The film's first half didn't impress me that much, to be honest. It just seemed to be gravitating every time towards sex and torture. Nothing much was happening. I was making mental comparisons with Kekko Kamen, or even St Trinians (which is more obviously about girl power). I'd also noted the film's surprisingly patriarchal power structure, with men firmly at the top of every tree and all the schoolgirls acting at their direction. The Vice-Principal has everyone dancing like puppets. Even Sugimoto is given a male ally, a reporter who's investigating the school and seems to have a blackmail-like agenda.
However all that sex isn't just empty porn. Every single sex act in this film is about an abusive power relationship. Sometimes the abuse even goes both ways simultaneously, with men gleefully thinking they're the exploiters even as they're being set up by girls laying a trap with their bodies. What they do to the school's half-senile Principal is almost cruel (although he enjoyed it). It's sex as a political statement, practically being a comment on itself. Also, to the film's credit, there's one appalling rape that Suzuki shoots chastely and doesn't go for skin shots at all. The film has one nice girl, you see, who studied hard even at Hope School and believed that a particular man was good. That plot thread ends up somewhere horrifying.
There's more literal politics too. One of the tortures is explicitly borrowed from the U.S. military in Vietnam, then the end of the film is literally tearing down the barricades. We have riot police, rock-throwing, water cannons and cars being overturned and set on fire. (They set light to it with a sign saying "fire prevention week".) They burn the Japanese flag, while the film mockingly quotes public-spirited slogans. Sugimoto destroys the men's jobs and political futures, then she destroys their property. The school gets smashed up. The car goes up. Most deliciously of all, something similar happens to that journalist who thought he was in control and helping Sugimoto get what she wanted. At the end of this film, the girls get dragged away by the riot police... but they won. The men lose. All of them.
The film's at its most stylish when it's at its most horrible. I've already praised the opening sequence, nauseating though it is, but I'd also draw your attention to the hallucinogenic piss humiliation (like a fever dream) and the Principal's sunset walk to nowhere through singing schoolgirls. I also admire the way Suzuki uses those empty seats during the Vice-President's speech at the anniversary celebrations.
Odd fact: there's a "detourned" Rene Vienet version of this film, called The Girls of Kamare. He added hardcore sex inserts and made up his own dialogue in the French subtitles. (He didn't touch the Japanese soundtrack, though.) The point of a detournement is to make something more political and radical, but I think it would misread the original to assume that those qualities weren't already there.
Suzuki's film goes too far. I don't think that can be disputed. However it goes too far with such passion and anger that it's brilliant. It'll burn you. It's sleazy disturbing exploitation that's also a primal scream against the patriarchy and against society. It's not very good and the plot's spinning its wheels a bit in the first half. It has Sugimoto and Ike at their very best, with Sugimoto's torture scene in particular being one of those iconic cinema images that should, by rights, have immortalised her. (She later quit the movie business and became a nursery school teacher. The mind boggles. One yearns to know if any of her young pupils ever saw this film.)