(This is intended for a mature audience. Which is really strange, since B. Alan is one of the most immature individuals we know here at movieweb. Anyway, beware. And tread lightly. It's bound to get real, real ugly)
Angel guts, to be specific. That title puts feted, egregious imagery in your head, doesn't it? It just can't help itself: A winged seraph falls drunk off a billboard, landing on a wrought iron fence. It's belly ripped open. Intestines hanging out, dripping pools of yellow gunk. A thick metal spike has erupted from the poor thing's porcelain skin. The black tip points towards the heavens like some sort of late night fast food neon sign. A drive-through altruism; it's the signature move. The unholy molestation of God's most cherished creature; a violation of both beauty and spirit.
Obviously, something entitled "Angel Guts" could only come from Japan.
We have our Romantic Comedies (or "Rom-Coms" for those of you who like to overuse filthy marketing catch phrases that really shouldn't have a place in our society). And Asia has its Abuse Dramedies (or, if you like, Ab-Drams...I just made that up...I'm a jackass). Yes. "Angel Guts" is a film series based around the basic genre-defying act of Rape. Call it: Illegal vaginal penetration performed by a criminally intrusive penis. What's it all about, Alfie? Here's an example: Imagine, if you will, Ishii Takashi directs "Bridget Jones 3: Penitentiary Hi-Jinks" in two years. In it, Bridget is sexually abused by an AIDS-riddled teenager after taking a job as a Hospital Candy Stripper. It's the finger bang. Followed by a good old-fashioned drive-by dick-f*ckin'. Then, on her way home, our beautiful, big bootied girl gets ass-raped by an angry, drunken Colin Firth. Despite the day's horrible run of events, Bridget remains bouncy with her chin reaching up to touch the sky. If Tokyo ran Hollywood, that's what we'd see playing at the multiplex ever other week, or so. Angel Gut's core group of directors prove that notion with their 5 film pentology. It's The pentacle of Japanese cinema. And it's based upon one key ingredient: brutality
It should hardly be considered fun stuff.
But Angel Guts sure does try to be just that (if you're courageous enough to use the word fun in the face of severe vaginal malice). And, God, is it entertaining. At least I thought so. I never imagined I'd find myself running over to my friend's house screaming, "Hey, Dude, you've got to check out these Rape movies." But I might just do that. I'd defiantly recommend them to a more open-minded audience member. Especially if that individual is familiar with the core esthetic that seems to be dripping from the bottom of the Japanese Arthouse Cinema nowadays.
I'm not a big fan of rape. I mean, who is? Seriously, folks, this isn't a joking matter. Except, maybe in the hands of some bored Tokyo auteur. I've never been personally involved in any type of sexual abuse. I remember a kid got kidnapped when I was in Middle School. He was snatched off the playground swings late one Fall evening. By some deranged dockworker. That young boy was taken and locked in a small log cabin deep in the Oregon woods, where he was ass-hammered for two straight days. The only thing illuminating the cottage was a couple of half-lit candles. For some reason, that imagery still sticks in my head, told in a recreation of events by someone that wasn't even there. I guess that's why I still get that queasy sensation in my stomach when I drive by some stranger's house and see a faint amber light burning in their window. I have a peeking phobia, and it drives me crazy to pass personal residences during those twilight hours. You never know what might be going on behind pulled shades.
Now, Artsmagic has come knocking on my door, asking me to view their latest DVD series. It was an uneasy proposition. I wasn't sure I wanted to delve this deep into the anti-social topic of Rape. It wasn't being used as a story arc. No, it was being used as a hypothetic throughline that would thematically connect five different, unrelated tales. The only thing these sorted shots of cinematic gold have in common is Nami. A name. The character that is to be violated in a very unpleasant way. Only, she's not the "same" Nami in each piece. It's just a vocational coincidence that the ruined girl in every episode has the same iodized identity, baptized in sperm.
No poor soul should have to live through the layered cruelty of this many sequels.
Angel Guts started as a "horror" manga, created by Ishii Takashi. I was oblivious to this knowledge before rummaging through his so-called adaptations. I knew nothing of the director or his vast collection of painted panel work. Apparently, Ishii was a wannabe filmmaker that failed miserably at the craft. He couldn't get his foot in the door without slicing his toes off in a geyser of cherry-flavored blood. The man's crank-hand came as a catastrophe, and Takashi's film career languished in the pits of an unforgiving financial environment. Instead of taking the coward's way out, say, settling for a job at the Gloomy Bear warehouse or killing himself, he instead sucked all of his creative energy through a straw, and then spit it atop the pages of what we might refer to as a "Graphic Novel" (really just an adult comic book). He must have been angry though, because Rape is a fairly vicious topic of choice. Did some talking muff squelch his early directorial plans? We may never know. A fact, though: The inspired output that fell from his fingertips became so popular, they based a whole franchise around the man's sanguine attempt at paperback violence.
Ishii's childhood dream of standing behind the camera came full circle with this endeavor. While he was not initially chosen to physically partake in the constructive rendering required to bring an Angel Guts manga to life, he did manage to squeeze himself into the director's chair for the making of the fourth film, aptly titled The Red Dizziness.
Which I've now seen. I did not get to review all five films in the Angel Guts series. Artsmagic felt it best to limit my initial viewing pleasure to the essentials. Rape is sometimes hard to digest, even when it comes in a tidy hour and eighteen minute package. I'd be allowed only two movies, which were sent out in random order. As luck would have it, Ishii's 1988 installment The Red Dizziness made it too my front door. As did the very first Angel Guts film, High School Co-Ed.
upon which Angel Guts is based.There's very little information to be found on these projects. A couple of obscure websites have reviewed the screeners, but a more comprehensive explanation about the creation of these films is absent from the core base of the Internet (hopefully, some sort of documentary or commentary will be provided on the supplemental section of the approaching DVDs). A more casual fan of foreign cinema, such as myself, wouldn't even know the Angel Guts series existed, unless they spent a generous amount of time plundering the various and scattered Japanese Cinema specific sites devoted to overseas horror and Yakuza crime dramas. I wanted a brief synopsis of the films I was too be looking at later in the day. I had to dig long and hard to find them.
Trust me, its better to go in blind. These are worthwhile endeavors that will shock and surprise your better judgment. For instance, I was expecting to be violated by the violence. I prepared my hands on the edge of that sofa, ready to feel my balls drop in a wave of uneasy pressure. Instead, I found myself strangely aroused by both these films' dicey nature. While upsetting and stressful, some of the more brutal scenes in High School Co-Ed are also, perhaps, the most beautifully rendered rape sequences ever shot on film. One in particular stands out in my mind. It's stuck there like some fading mental postcard sunset. A young punk performs unlawful physical entry on a hot, young school girl in the rain, between two trains, after trying to protect her from his more vicious friends. Afterwards, she washes off in the down pour, standing naked on the gritty tracks of the dirt-stained train yard. Twilight is nearing, and she doesn't mind that her rabid suitors are watching. It's a show.
Yes. It is.
High School Co-Ed was directed in 1978 by Chusei Sone, and comes as a strange testament to friendship and the intuitive notion of loyalty. A trio of Rockabilly hipsters roam the scenic streets of a nameless town, drenched in sepia tones. Their only apparent goal is to perform acts of violence on unsuspecting motorists. Early into the film, maybe two minutes, these Lenny & Squiggy look-alikes rev up their motorbikes and overtake a loving couple in a yellow corvette. They smash the windshield and proceed to drag the sexy passenger into a field, leaving the driver to fend for himself.
The first rape scene comes quick, yet plays as a sort of centerpiece. Everything we need to know about the film and its intentions are set-up in this omniscient act of brevity. Legs are spread, canals are high-jacked, and what could be a very horrific judgment call turns into a sexual fantasy of sorts. Tetsuro, the main character, pounces on this young muff in an animalistic urge to show off for his friends. His motorcycle helmet stays on through the molestation. He's the symbolic spaceman, conquering a docile planet. The girl struggles, but her cries of pain slowly turn into cries of orgasmic pleasure. She likes it. Tetsuro doesn't come at the body in a fit of mad thrusting. He takes his time. He makes gentle love to the woman, even though it's a stab at unlawful pubic access. He's Captain Kirk on a Starship Mission to seek out and find lust on a landmine filled strip of flesh.
Tetsuro's friend Kajima, on the other hand, is random and cruel. While Tetsuro sought pleasure from illicit probing, Kajima is striking death blows. He is a surge of electricity, and he only wants to bestow acts of an obscene nature. There's a direct double-edged variation on their rape esthetic. They are two sides of one sharp knife. Kajima views women as nothing more than housing bags for guts and sh*t; a warm place to put it. When he sets his sights on a target, he aims to kill and doesn't stop the initial pursuit until the red seas are parted. Tetsuro pretends to have this same pointed view. While in the company of his friends, he, too, claims that the female form is soulless. Secretly, he believes otherwise. Forced to care for his younger sister, Tetsuro strives to preserve her innocent heart.
Their collective, carefree, f*ck-all existence breezes through the grass like a quiet, expected wind. And there's never any type of absolution involved in their sexually destructive ways. This small group of thugs seems locked into the Rape lifestyle. Until, late one afternoon, when Tetsuro catches Kajima with an underage Sailor Moon wannabe named Nami. He instantaneously sees his sister reflected back in the eyes of the young girl. Tetsuro isn't really interested in preventing the rape of Nami. He doesn't want to save her. He just cannot differentiate between the two girls. His worst fears come to light, and Kajima, along with their mutual friend Sadakuni (an impotent maniac that wields a rather large knife to compensate for his broken spirit), realize the emanate horror held within Tetsuro's chest. "What if this was my sister? And these guys were about to mutilate her virginity?"
Tetsuro's two friends spend the rest of the movie trying to exploit his fear. Acts of sexual abuse are entwined with images of metallurgy. Burning steel penetrates and smoothes itself into finite dust. Other instilled metaphors shine through. Scenes of knives cutting through thin bed sheets represent how tenderly our heroes slice through young flesh. There is a constant, pummeling conflict of interests. The film tends to set up the rapist as a tortured soul. Someone we're meant to sympathize with. We're never treated to the victim's plight in a malicious way. Those being raped are shown as mere masturbatory objects. There's always a clear line drawn as too who we're supposed to cheer forTo use that term lightly.
Tetsuro is forced to show his loyalty by kidnapping and raping the young girl he earlier saved from Kajima's clutches. This happens in the train yard, as I described above. The scene is tremendous in its sheer exquisite nature. Raindrops punctuate each thrusting intrusion, and the camera angles breath a sigh of beauty that excels past anything seen in recent, contemporary cinema. We're not supposed to be getting turned on by this. But we are. What starts out as a ferocious encroachment slowly turns into a real love scene.
We're almost led to believe that Nami and Tetsuro have always been lovers, and this is a trick. That they are trying to deceive Tet's friends into believing he actually raped her. We later learn this is not true, but a deceptive fantasy element implied by the director.
After the deed is done, Tetsuro drops to his knees, his childish weeping camouflaged by the rain. Somehow, the narrative turns him into the victim. His hurt has hurtled itself deep into the recesses of his groin. Nami seems unaffected. Maybe she's been raped before. Obviously, she likes it. Her shower in the rain is one of the most titillating images seen in recent memory (remember, this was shot in 1978).
The train station rape comes as a turning point. As usual, Kajima goes in for sloppy seconds while Sadakuni watches in the shadows, large knife in hand. This is the first time Tetsuro stops them. He ceases the continuation of rape, and decrees the act null and void. Upset, both friends disown him with multiple cries of, "You are dead to us!"
You'd think Tetsuro would want to at least donkey punch Kajima in the pee hole. Take a couple of aggressions out on the kid. But that would be predictable. And Japanese cinema is never predictable. Instead of settling the score with his old friend, Tetsuro instead decides to get in a fight with some Yakuza gangster. This scuffle is taken out into the street, and ends in a dumpster, where the Yakuza nearly kills Tet with an abandoned table leg. At the last minute, Sadakuni jumps in and saves his friend's life, claiming it an act of true loyalty, even though Sada was the most vocal and adamant about renouncing his friendship to Tet. The gesture rings true to life. Bros before hos, and that's basically the moral of this scathing After School Special. Its tailor made for angry kids. Even though it's 18 years old, it feels more contemporary than anything being shown at the Maitreyaplex this Christmas season. A wiggy scene
Angel Guts: High School Co-Ed tends to itch deep inside your intestinal wall.
As if it didn't contain enough pain and torture to sift through in one night, I still had The Red Dizziness sitting on my floor. Staring at me. Waiting for me to watch it. Luckily, both of these rape films are mercifully short at about an hour and eighteen minutes respectively. Two of the Angel Guts films, back to back, make for a good, swift double-kick to the dick. I'm not sure, if even forced to, that I could stomach the entire collection in one fail swoop.
Despite that, I somehow managed to breeze through this binary transition. The Red Dizziness. It is film number four, and as I stated before, it was directed by Angel Guts creator Ishii Takashi. His first feature film, it was made way back in 1988. And it reeks of that era. This has the same look and feel as Blake Edward's 1987 masterpiece Blind Date and John Landis' 1985 sleeper hit Into the Night. Except, in those films, the main star did not rape his leading lady in order to make her fall in love with him. Aside from that small glitch in interpersonal narrative, these films are all cut from the same fabric. It's the comfortable cloth. They're watchable. And kind of cool in an old school type-way. The Red Dizziness and High School Co-Ed is a very good pairing in itself. Both projects adhere to the same, subtle "Rape as Fantasy" element.
The title is tasty, and it makes me want to get drunk. The Red Dizziness is what those in the know call dumping a fister of Rum into a 32 oz. Cherry Slurpee from the 7-11. This movie will have the same effect on you. It's euphoric. And it begins in dreams. This time out, Nami is the main character. In Co-Ed she was merely a vessel for sexual abuse. Here, she is a real person. A worker bee. A late night nurse that can't keep her head off the desk. Apparently she's prone to fits of narcolepsy. The sweaty wet dreams that curse her naps are drenched in a red hue that is unsettling. A tender moment is remembered and recalled subconsciously
A faint nightmare: Her husband/boyfriend (the film is never really clear about this) Kenji is a pornographer/photographer. Nami is jealous of his prettier subjects, and sometimes dreams that she is the one in front of his snapping camera. A crimson-tinged dark room suggests that Nami may be on her period. She refuses Kenji's hand as it flits about her clitoris, perhaps brushing to closely to an irritable bowel. She wants the c*ck's attention, yet, she doesn't want the c*ck.
Another nurse awakens Nami from this textbook slumber. Minutes later, we see the girl changing out an old man's catheter; his urethra tube. It's the reverse of penetration. Instead of some viral man sticking his penis inside of her, she is sticking something inside the pee hole of a senior citizen that can no longer get it up. A similar metaphor is used in Wes Craven's first Scream. Towards the end of that film, Neve Campbell sticks her finger in one of Skeet Ulrich's stab wounds. That was a blatant swap at figuring out a dominant sex, creating a role reversal. Here, in the Red Dizziness, it comes as a precursor to future actions held within the narrative.
Once Nami is established as a central figure, the film urgently throws us into the life of a stockbroker that has royal screwed over his business associates. Muraki is kind of like a Japanese Jimmy Cooper (I couldn't get out of this column without making some sort of O.C. reference, now could I?). Numerous people want to kill him. His wife has left him. And the barmaid decides that sex on the countertop of her bar is not a keen idea. This cat is having a bad day.
It's both funny and disgusting. The Cancer kid is humping away, fast. He doesn't want to get caught. His friend is holding Nami down. The girl struggles. The friend tries to restrain her, and pulls back a little too hard, wrestling to keep her in place. His timing is really bad. He manages to lift Nami back just enough that "The Caner Kid's" penis slips out of her. Right at the point of ejaculation. It's the money shot. A spoonful of chizm flies through the air, nailing that kid's buddy right in the face. Ha. Ha.
That's about as gruesome as this one gets. The Red Dizziness is not overtly violent. It's a simple, sweet tragedy that doesn't care much for its key players. As soon as the Make-A-Wish kids get done playing vaginal ping-pong, Nami runs away from work and hurries home. Where her husband/boyfriend is busy taking dirty pictures of his latest subject.
As Nami creeps down the hall, overhearing their conversation, it sounds like it might just be work as usual. But then she learns the truth. Her man, Kenji, has just engaged in angry animal sex atop their newly purchased sheets. The girl peeks through the crack in the doorway. Nami's mate is sprawled on top of some sexy kooze, wiping the mess with a tissue. The flirt. This photographic mistress berates him for not leaving his wife. Kenji claims that Nami means nothing to him. That she's just a cum-hole for glory. Then he absentmindedly opens the door to find Nami standing there. In tears
Yes. Her day gets worse
Hurt. Angry. Her heart obliterated, Nami runs out into the street. Right then, guess who is driving down the road, trying to escape his own problems? Yup, Muraki the remarkably inept Stockbroker. His mind on other things, he hits Nami with his car. Hard. She goes rolling up the hood and slams into the windshield. This renders her unconscious.
Two people with bad luck: Their kismet meets on the hood of some sh*tty Japanese import, and it's a karmic titty-f*ck that envelopes everything in its path. Call it Strangers in the Night, exchanging "Mala Suerte" This metaphoric type of melding will come into play later on, much more blatantly.
Muraki believes that he has killed Nami. This is a problem, because he was trying to escape his rotten luck, and now he seems to be procuring more of it. At a loss, he throws the presumed-to-be dead body in the car and drives it to a secluded part of the woods, where he decided to engage in a little bit of necrophilia. Right near that crucial moment of insertion, Nami snaps out of her concussion. She's not all that surprised to find some strange man coming down on top of her. Of course something like this would happen. It's so obvious. The girl tries to stay calm. Rain pelts the windshield, creating a scenic drizzle. There is an intrinsic beauty reflecting off both the victim and the victimizer. Again, we're seeing another hauntingly gorgeous rape scene that is as picturesque as any tenth century watercolor painting.
When it's rape, it pours!
The film sets up the notion that "all men are animals." Then it slowly tries to deconstruct its own ideals. After peacefully accepting her rape fate, Nami decides that it would be best if she ran away. A chase ensues. Muraki pursues Nami down into an underground hideout. An old gangster lair used for drug and gun transitions, the moldy place is a dank hole of horrors.
As luck would have it, there's an old, cum-crusty mattress that just happens to be lying in the middle of the floor. Muraki captures Nami, throws her down, and begins to f*ck the sh*t out of her tight cracks. Her vagina becomes a chasm of misery. He has decided to take all of his aggressions out on this poor soul.
Suddenly, he lurches back, falling face first onto the mattress. This rage of a man turns into a little girl, and once again, we begin to see the portrayal of rapist as victim. Muraki becomes the sympathetic character, not Nami. In a strange turn, he begins to pour his flaccid heart out, "I thought that by having sex with you, I could get rid of my bad luck. I'm a selfish man!"
Muraki drives Nami to a cheap hotel, throws her in the bath, and a very strange relationship begins to develop. It's the Patty Hearst Syndrome all over again as Nami falls head over heels in love with the man that raped her. For the next twenty minutes, we're treated to one, long sex scene that has these two lovebirds doing it in every position, in every possible nook and cranny, until they pass out in the Jacuzzi. The Rape Fantasy element comes into play yet again, and the film seems to suggest a natural relationship. "This type of thing happens all the time," The Red Dizziness explains in finite detail.
Of course, this being a Japanese film, things do not end on a blissful note. They never do. This isn't Hollywood land, here, folks. Very seldom do we get the Happy Ending when perusing a J-Town effort. No sooner does Muraki ask, "Can I come inside you?" Before they are zipping down the road, ready to run off together on some stubborn sojourn. Perhaps this will mark the beginning of a new life for the two of them. They have decided to become lovers. It doesn't matter that they have no money. Muraki will get some, somewhere
Ah, if only he wasn't such a retard. Yeah, he throws the girl in his sports car, gets a good few miles down the highway, and then realizes that he forgot to buy gas. The engine stalls, and he must walk back to the Chevron Station. Well, I won't ruin the ending for you, but lets just say he doesn't make it back. Trust me, it's not his fault, but Nami believes this to be true. Felling abandoned, and hurt, she runs back to that dirty mattress, where Muraki tried to rape her for a second time, and finds the old cassette player. By God, it works. She presses the play button. And some God awful American sap song starts to play in warbled measure. Nami stares longingly out the window, perhaps thinking back on her "bad luck." End credits roll
Oh, what a day, when you can look it in the face and hold your vomit.*
I had to literally jump back from the TV and rip this thing from my DVD player. I was raped out. The literary throughline was providing way too much information for me to think about. What am I supposed to be taking away from this experience? Something, I'm sure. These are two gorgeous depictions of sexual abuse. Do they have artistic merit? Surely, they do. Will I recommend them? Yes, but only to students of film that won't be severely affected by their content. I wouldn't throw them up on a monitor in a correctional facility or an institute for the criminally insane. The Angel Guts series needs to be studied like a textbook wet dream. Yet, at the same time, both of the films I watched were entertaining in their own right. Not stodgy or boring.
I've read the argument that these films are "life-affirming" and not exploitative. I might have to argue that fact. I mean; they make rape look like a fun activity. In both movies, the women enjoy being violated. There's a weird fantasy element that persists throughout the narrative. They set the rapist up as a Christ-like figure. That's more than a little disturbing. If I'm to believe The Red Dizziness, I, too, could find true love through rape. I mean; that's what it's really about. Isn't it? Running over a girl, attempting to rape her seemingly dead body. Forcing her to do things against her will. Yeah. She'll love me forever
Maybe in Japan, I'm sure. But not here.
Go watch the films. They come out in early 2005 (March 29th) from Artsmagic. This is an instance where you'll have to draw your own conclusions. So many questions are left unanswered. It's a maddening, ingenious series. One I'm sure I'll go back to when I'm ready. And willing. I will not be forced!
As for now, I'm going to head down to the 7-11 and mix up a little of my own Red Dizziness. Then I'm going to go down to 7920 Sunset Blvd., and scream obscenities at the people going into the DGA. I hope I see Mike Nichols. I've got a real inclination to walk up to him and say, "I hate you. And your stupid movie."
Closer. What kind of faggot made that movie? A real Grade A Dick, I tell you
Angel Guts. Not for the faint of heart. But a worthwhile night hiding behind the couch, peeking through cushions to see the screen. That's probably where you'll find me.
Or maybe not.