4.0 out of 5 stars The female of the species
The name of this film, “Angel Guts: Red Classroom” (“Tenshi no Harawata: Akai Kyoshiitsu”), is somewhat misleading. It is an overly-sensational title, which leads one to think that this is going to be a far more exploitative film than it is.
“Red Classroom” is, of course, one of the infamous Nikkatsu pink films based on the comic series by Ishii Takashi (Freeze Me, Flower & Snake). However, instead of a “boobs and blood” spectacle, director Sone Chusei (Immortal Love) turned in a well-photographed, intelligent and challenging film with almost artistic pretensions.
The story opens with an underground screening of a rape film, the kind of film that most people will assume “Red Classroom” actually is. Right off the bat the director is playing with your assumptions. The scene cuts to a group of overcoat-clad men watching the film, and we realize we have been misled. One of the men, a professional photographer named Tetsuro (Kanie Keizo, Zatoichi – Darkness Is His Ally), becomes fascinated with how real the actress Nami (Mizuhara Yuuki “Naomi”) seemed, and arranges a meeting with her. His fantasies are crushed however, as she disrobes unemotionally and prepares to prostitute herself. Tetsuro is shocked and rendered impotent by Nami’s sexual aggression, and tries to leave, but in a reversal of roles Nami traps him into a marathon of sex, almost raping him instead, demanding that he perform again and again, and belittling his manhood if he can’t fulfill her desires.
This is what makes “Red Classroom” stand out. The female sexual aggressor is rare in Japanese pink films, as is the length of the sex scene, which goes on and on and Nami drains Tetsuro of all his energy until he is just her physical toy with no willpower of his own. Of course, as with all pink films from this era, the sex is much more implied than shown, and much of the artistry of the camera is in how to show the rawness of what is happening without crossing the censors. There is plenty of nudity, to be sure, but tops only as was typical of the time.
I also really enjoyed how director Sone played with his own artistic longings, and you can hear the characters speaking with his voice. Longing to make something other than pink films, he doesn’t really get the chance because “art doesn’t sell”. Even within the genre, he has some clever things to say. My favorite scene is when Tetsuro is shooting a model on the beach, in a schoolgirl costume that is slowly being stripped away. There is discussion about what the model’s motivation is, what she would be doing on a beach getting naked, and the photographer says “This isn’t art! We don’t need to make an excuse just to show a beautiful naked woman!” Which is, of course, exactly what Sone had just done.