Nikkatsu Roman PornoKeizo Kani'eTakashi IshiiAngel Guts
Angel Guts: Red Classroom
Medium: film
Year: 1979
Director: Chusei Sone
Writer: Takashi Ishii, Chusei Sone
Keywords: Nikkatsu Roman Porno, boobs
Series: Angel Guts >>
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Yuki Mizuhara, Keizo Kani'e, Jun Aki, Kenji Kawanishi, Ryoichi Kusanagi, Minako Mizushima, Toshihiko Oda
Format: 79 minutes
Website category: Japanese old
Review date: 5 January 2012
Angel Guts is a nine-movie series of rape-themed pink films from Nikkatsu, between 1978 and 1994. So far, so unpleasant. However they're also based on manga by Takashi Ishii and hence of sufficient interest that five of them were released as a R1 DVD boxed set in 2006.
Firstly, some background. These films were Ishii's first screen credits. He'd joined Nikkatsu as a part-time worker in 1977 and apparently became inspired to write manga by getting married. These manga he called Angel Guts and they involved the rape of women based on his wife. No, that's not creepy at all! How could you think such a thing? However Ishii was arguably writing his rape stories from a feminist perspective, with "Angel Guts" apparently being a symbolic title to represent women's inner strength. He wrote his female protagonists realistically and the various acts of rape were liable to affect the damaged rapists as badly as they did their victims. Ishii's women dressed like real women, had normal jobs and were never just passive victims or sex objects.
In other words, they're a lot like Takashi Ishii's later films. I was expecting them to be cold and uncomfortable to watch, to have a high sex content (obviously) and to be dissecting their characters' psychological problems the hard way. This is accurate.
Red Classroom is the second in the series and significantly it's not directed by Ishii. He only directed the final three, from Red Vertigo onwards. Instead this was helmed by Chusei Sone, who did the first two and is the only other person to shoot more than one of them. It's an uncomfortable story, obviously, but Sone's choices of how to shoot it are also interesting. He doesn't make it sexy. He doesn't let us get close to the characters. Instead he keeps the camera well back and largely static, turning scenes into tableaux in a manner that you could regard as reminiscent either of classic 1950s Japanese cinema (e.g. Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi) or of B-movie hacks bashing out their material at top speed and capable of knocking out any old rubbish in a few days (e.g. Roger Corman). It's a distinctive style, anyway. I had trouble telling apart the characters, which makes it hard to follow the story. All the men look the same and all the women look the same, especially with their clothes off.
The result is a film that's hard work to watch and absolutely not recommended for anyone in search of hand relief. The film's imdb page has an appalled review from someone who was clearly only looking for the latter, although given the rape I'd suggest he'd made a disturbing choice to begin with.
The film begins with men watching a rape-themed porn film. This is unpleasant to begin with. We're clearly watching the men as much as we are the act itself, which is very Ishii. Our hero, Keizo Kani'e, is one of those deviants and afterwards we see him pestering the projectionist to give him the name of the actress. Kani'e, it turns out, works in the porn industry. We see the day-to-day business of making porn, in which the men are frequently disagreeing with each other, inept or useless. One will tell off another for asking the actress to act, for instance. Kani'e would appear to have sexual issues and at one point virtually rapes a woman despite the fact that she's barged into his apartment of her own accord, announced that she'll sleep with him every week, stripped naked and got into his bed. These are not healthy people. The women get more dramatic motivations for why they're doing these things, but the picture being painted of the men is arguably even more broken.
There's more than one female character, but the key one is Yuki Mizuhara, playing Nami Tsuchiya. I understand there's always a Nami Tsuchiya in an Angel Guts movie. They're all different characters, but they share the same name and they get raped. This is disturbing and it's meant to be, with the ever-changing Namis either representing all women or none of them, depending on the audience's reading.
I won't go into details about the story, but there is one. At one point they even have a "three years later". Either the men or the women might be in control of any given sex scene, including in a bad way. As for the rapes themselves, they're fortunately sparse in this particular film. There's plenty of cold, impersonal or just plain disconnected sex, but I think there are only two out-and-out rapes and they're bookending the movie. The second one is disturbing in a way you won't expect, incidentally. Yow.
Would I recommend this film? Probably not, although I did think about it. I think I respect it, sort of, but 99.9% of the population of the Western world would obviously reject it out of hand. It takes effort to get your head around, given Sone's distant shooting style and Ishii's unsympathetic and extreme use of character. Even the nice guy (Kani'e) has big things wrong with him and in the third act is following a course that's not easy to forgive. One of his more sympathetic scenes, believe it or not, is when he's been taken in by the police for using an underage actress in one of his porn flicks. This movie's portraying a desperately seedy world and making it look even more unpleasant than you'd expect given the subject matter. The actress on the DVD cover is extremely pretty, but that's because she's smiling and there's not much of that in the movie. It's also undeniably a pink film, which for most people will be a problem in itself.
Well, that's Takashi Ishii for you. Brrr.