-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
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Artsmagic have released the 5 movies
on Region 1 DVD as ANGEL GUTS -
Collector's Edition boxset:
High School Co-ed
Red Vertigo (aka: Red Dizziness)
Angel Guts: Red Dizziness|
cast: Mayako Katsuragi, Naoto Takenaka
director: Takashi Ishii
78 minutes (unrated) 1988
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Artsmagic NTSC DVD Region 1 retail
reviewed by Michael Bunning
A little background first: Takashi Ishii wrote his Angel Guts manga in the 1970s.
It explored various aspects of sex and violence. It was a big hit. The Nikkastsu studio
had developed financial difficulties, and as a guaranteed revenue source, began making
pinku (porn, basically) movies. In the late 1980s, they commissioned a series of pinku
based on Takashi Ishii's manga. Red Dizziness is the fourth volume of the five
films, and the only one directed by Ishii himself, though all of the volumes are based
on his comics, and he wrote the screenplays for four of them. They're all about rape.
Yep, you read that right. Rape-porn. The Angel Guts part of the title apparently
refers to the strength that the angel (the raped woman) shows. Feminist rape-porn!
Well, to my mind, it's just as unappealing as it sounds. I wouldn't normally give away
the plot, but there isn't one really, and in any case, this is a porn film. You won't
be watching it for the profound storyline. Basically, the main character Nami is cheated
on by her boyfriend, raped by patients in the hospital she works in, knocked over by
Muraki (the main male character), kidnapped and raped by him. Then she falls in love
with him. He's shot and killed, and she thinks he's left her. And that's it.
Now, I'm trying to find the feminist angle in having the protagonist fall in love with
the man who ran her over, molested her, raped her and kidnapped her, but I'm having
trouble. The only positive thing I can find in the movie is that when Nami thinks Muraki
has left her, she says: "I'll go back to Tokyo, move out [from her cheating boyfriend]
and work hard." But it's one line out of the whole movie. The other 'positives'
which Ishii tries to put into his film are thin, and few and far between. Both times
Nami is raped; the rapist is ridiculed slightly. The first rapist ejaculates on his
friend by accident, and Muraki can't maintain an erection. Nami has the power to forgive
Muraki, and they only sleep together again once she has. Muraki is killed, but by this
time he's not the rapist anymore, he's the romantic lead, and his death only serves
to injure Nami some more.
Back on the negative side, she is raped twice and the only reason she gives for forgiving
Muraki is that he takes her to a hotel where she has a bath (but he hasn't let her go:
she's still his captive). It's nonsense, and to have her immediately fall in love with
him says more about the way Ishii sees women than any female empowerment. Nami is never
really in control at any point in the film. She's cheated on, abused and subjugated,
treated as an object by every man in the film; and she falls in love with the worst
offender. She comes to enjoy being treated as subhuman. Possibly this reflects Japanese
society, but I sincerely doubt that Japanese women want to be treated as possessions.
Of course, as I said earlier, this is a porn movie, and you probably aren't watching
it out of a taste for world cinema. You want to see people having sex. Well, in this
movie, you will. Lots. If you can get past the violence of most of the sex, and can
wait for the very explicit 20-minute long sex scene in the hotel, you'll no doubt be
Other reviewers talk about the lush visuals of the movie, the mood lighting and expressive
use of water shots. There are lots of rainy scenes, with raindrops hitting windows and
pooling together; and in one scene, twin streams of urine mingling (presumably intended
to foreshadow the intimate relationship between Nami and Muraki). But I can't
really recommend this movie. There must be better porn out there (though not
being an avid watcher myself, I can't point you in the direction of any); and what it
says about rape is undermined by the lack of recrimination the film gives the rapists
and the lack of any real power it gives Nami. In fact, even The Mexican's brief
discussion of rape (between Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini) is a much more lucid
and concise exploration than Angel Guts. The best thing I can say about this
film is that it's short - only an hour and a quarter long. However, I think it's still
too long. Several of the scenes are flabby and could do with a few seconds trimming
from them, and one or two are completely unnecessary.
If you like Japanese pinku, or like the manga, you might enjoy this. If not, steer well