Unrated - Cinema of the Extreme

Manga artist Takashi Ishi made his first foray into feature directing, with the controversial rape crisis drama / love story ANGEL GUTS: RED DIZZINESS. The fifth and final instalment of a series actually conceived by Ishi as writer, it is a disturbing yet poignant oddity that inflames a variety of responses through a framework that manages to be both visually arresting and wholly cinematic.

A nurse at a Tokyo hospital, pretty young Nami helps her photographer boyfriend to develop kinky pictures in her spare time. Jealous at the attention he gives to other women, she harbours a repressed desire to be filmed naked herself, and allows him to take snapshots during their intercourse. Exhausted by her night session, she struggles to stay away at work, but is raped by a terminal patient and his cohort. Troubled by the experience, she rushes home to her treacherous bloke and catches him having a fling with another woman in their bed.

Confused and distracted, Nami flees only to be run over by disgraced stockbroker Muraki. Fired from his job, deserted by his wife and in serious debt after investing his clients’ money into his own ventures, Muraki tries to defy his lowest ebb by whisking Nami away and raping her. Failing to maintain an erection for long, he breaks down, before seeking forgiveness. After events settle down, the two decide to stay in the abandoned building together that they have landed in. Feeling dirty, Nami orders her former captor to find a hotel, where the two stay together to escape their troubled former lives. There they live in a fantasyland of affection and steamy sex, until the cruellest of fates intervene.

Altough one could easily be fooled in to thinking that ANGEL GUTS: RED DIZZINESS is a gore-filled porno in the worst taste imaginable, closer inspection of the film’s title is revealing. Also known as RED VERTIGO, the film is closer in essence to Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of unhinged love, VERTIGO. The obsession of Hitchcock’s protagonist is indeed put across as unhealthy, as it drifts from fetishism to near madness. But Ishi’s labour of love, by contrast, uses the most extreme of situations as a positive device to pull together and explore the psyches of two tortured, lonely individuals to explore a greater depth of feeling.

Unlike pornography, which can be the most prosaic and insipid of filmic discourses, RED DIZZINESS is rather an erotic film willing to explore extreme mental states. As the film opens with Nami dozing off at the hospital, Ishi’s camera glides coolly toward her ear, before fading into the scene of her recent erotic experiences. The transition is a smooth but clear one, as we are taken out of the third person view quotidian life and plunged into Nami’s memories and desires. The same goes for Muraki. Lounging around drunk in a bar he has invested in, he ogles and attempts to bed the landlady who has to “go pee”. Following her to the toilets, he hallucinates a pool of water that stretches deep underground (the subconscious?) containing the now naked woman, which he plunges into.

These shifts are always reinforced visually, as Ishi contrasts the flat, high key images of normal life with feverish reds and luminous blues to evoke the concentrated emotional states of the two leads. Indeed, the director’s powerful visual sense might be one of the film’s greatest strengths, allowing him to enhance characterisation and story telling. The strongest such example has to be when Muraki captures Nami in his car. Rain lashes the car windows, glinting in purple neon. Not only is this a mesmerising interior image, but it also anticipates the two’s decision to take refuge from the world at the abandoned building. Water is used highly effectively later on, as separate pools of urine merge together, signalling the bourgeoning closeness of Nami and Muraki; and when the two make love in a bath it is a moving culmination of this motif.

In spite of this, it would be misleading to say that the film doesn’t revolve around sex that is fetishistic and geared for the male spectator. Characters are either thinking about it or doing it, whether it be rape or consensual, and every situation seems to be geared toward maximum sexual possibility. Even when Nami has been run over she is spread-eagled on the car boot with her short skirt exposing her legs. But it is a cop out to dismiss the film on the grounds that it is unremittingly sexist: the film is too complex and ambiguous. Muraki, at his lowest ebb, is often seen early answering the phone to his angry clients, lying under a table, the character-environment interaction emphasising his lack of esteem. He attempts to overcome this low point by violating Nami. But in the aftermath, she plays upon his feelings of guilt, threatening for a while not to forgive him. As such, RED DIZZINESS is a fine little film, whose impact and artistic value goes far deeper than mere titillation.

Mathew Sanderson


Released as part of the ANGEL GUTS 5-Disc collector’s edition

Directed by Takashi Ishi

Japanese language with optional English subtitles
Japan /1994 / 87 mins minutes.

Original Trailers for All 5 ANGEL GUTS films
Audio Commentary: Jasper Sharp, Co-Writer of ’The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film’
Director interview
Original advertising campaign materials

Artsmagic DVD Release

NTSC region 1 / Widescreen (Anamorphic) / Japanese in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mono.



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