Red Classroom (1979)

Rating: B

Dir: Sone Chusei
Star: Keizo Kanie, Yuuki Mizuhara, Jun Aki, Megu Kawashima

The second in the Angel Guts series is a good deal more successful than its predecessor in just about every way. If anything, there’s probably more sex in this, though at least most of it here is at least semi-consensual; the character of the rape victim here is given a lot more depth, rather than portrayed as a piece of meat and the devastating effects on her psyche are almost as hard to watch as any actual abuse. This is more thoughtful, right from the opening scene: at first, it looks like simply another rape, but as in Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, we’re actually watching a movie. This film-within-a-film calls into question the “reality” of the situation, and puts the viewer on a totally different footing.

After he sees this, a pornographer Muraki (Kanie) becomes entranced by the lead actress, Nami (Mizuhara). He tracks her down, only for her to say she was really raped – there’s no subjective proof for this, and it brings to mind the dubious claims of Linda Lovelace that she, too, was coerced. Still, “Rescuing” her becomes his obsession, in a way not dissimilar to Taxi Driver, for she also represents Muraki’s hopes for his own way out. It briefly looks like they can be each other’s escape, but circumstances dictate otherwise…

A lot of this is undeniably grim – not least the scene where you realise the whole downward spiral is about to begin again, with a new victim. But the movie also contains its share of black humour, not least in Muraki’s approach to his “art” and Nami’s spot of role-reversal, where she becomes the abuser rather than the abused. But the best thing about the film is its apparent honesty; obviously, I’ve never been raped, but I can only think of a couple of other films (Ms. 45) that do such a good job of capturing the shattering impact of such an assault. Classroom is also an unflattering, though sympathetic, portrayal of those in the porn industry and the burnout it causes, and overall, this is a good deal more forthright than 99% of adult entertainment even attempts.