Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Ayako Wakao, Shinsuke Ashida, Yûsuke Kawazu, Ranko Akagi, Jotaro Senba
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
A fresh young army nurse (the radiant Ayako Wakao) on the front finds herself the nighttime prey of hungry soldiers and awash in a sea of blood and torn bodies. Despite the hell around her she struggles to maintain her str... more »
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Touched by an Angel
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 10/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"During the fifteen years in which the Pacific War was fought, the year 1939 is often considered its most brutal. Struggling with the U.S.S.R. in the north, the Imperial Army began setting its attentions south. However, as the war with China continued the Japanese Army found itself stuck in a quagmire from which it was unable to extricate itself. Red Angel tells the story of Nishi Sakura a young and pretty nurse who tries to help relieve the suffering of multitudes of soldiers. However, trying to perform her duty is not very simple not only because of the constant mortaring and gunfire from the enemy, but also because she is victimized by the depravity of the wounded soldiers. In fact, on the first night stationed at her new post she is raped by a wounded soldier while several others look on. When she reports to the head nurse the next day, she learns that she was the third nurse that the same soldier had raped. Because of his misconduct, the soldier is sent to the frontline which is basically a sure death.
Later Nurse Nishi is sent to a hospital near the frontline and there she meets Dr. Okabe who back in Japan had once been a prominent surgeon, but who now considers himself little more than a butcher because there is little more that he can do for wounded soldiers than to amputate their arms and legs. Having worked in a relatively "stable" area before, Nurse Nishi is faced with the true carnage of war at her new position and at one point extracts 150 or 160 bullets from the bodies of soldiers in one day. Exhausted beyond belief, Nishi somehow falls in love with Dr. Okabe; he looks just like her father, but soon learns that he cannot truly love her because he is addicted to morphine. However, there are also other men who desire her, and the nurse does what she can to try to ease there suffering.
Directed by Masumura Yasuzo, Manji, Afraid to Die, Giants and Toys, Red Angel is a quite brutal in its depictions of the mutilated forms of the common soldiery. With its detailed sounds of flesh being cut and bones being sawed through, some parts of Red Angel are very difficult to watch not because of its visuals but because of its sounds of surgery and agony. However, Red Angel is also a quite sensual film with its depictions of how love can grow even in the worst of circumstances. Filmed during a time period in which the American armies were depicted as almost invincible on film, Red Angel, while maybe not quite reaching the artistry of Kobayashi Masaki's The Human Condition series or Ichikawa Kon's Harp of Burma or Fire on the Plain, should be considered one of the better films concerning the Pacific War
Blood is red, but so is love
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 09/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Soldiers are not the only ones who go to war. Mobilized along with the battalions of infantry, artillery and commanding officers are supporting squads of medics, surgeons and nurses. They are the ones who attempt to repair the damage done by enemy forces, to stitch the fighters back up so they can either be sent home as useless or sent back into the breech to kill or be killed. They too can become casualties of the conflict.
"Red Angel" ("Akai Tenshi") is the story of one of these nurses, a young and pretty woman named Nishi Sakura (Wakao Ayako) who is sent to support the war in China in 1939, one of the most horrible times in the 15-year long Pacific War. In the film, little is told of Nishi's backstory. Did she volunteer? Was she drafted? Was she a virgin? For us, her life begins the first night of her first shift as an army nurse, where she is brutally raped by one of the recuperating soldiers while the rest of the ward room watches, appreciative of the "entertainment". It is a harsh lesson for both Nishi as well as the viewers. This is not going to be a story about heroes.
Recovering from this initial horror, Nishi is only thrown deeper into the reality of working with men who have been reduced to beasts, who know that they will die soon enough so what does it matter what they do in the meantime. Trying desperately to retain her humanity, she tries to stitch the wounds and relieve the pain as best she can, pulling out hundreds of bullets in a single day and unable to wash the sent of blood from her hands. Into her life comes Dr. Okabe (Ashida Shinsuke), and older man who reminds her of her father. Okabe has lost his struggle, giving up his skills as a doctor and simply becoming a hacker at a butcher's shop, cutting off arms and legs whether they need it or not, simply because it is the easiest thing to do. A morphine addict, Okabe steals supplies to feed his habit, an addiction that has rendered him sexually impotent, and thus a perfect match for Nishi to fall in love with.
Director Masumura Yasuzo is not one of the most famous Japanese directors. He does not have the reputation of Kurosawa or Ozu, or even Gosha or Kobayashi. While not a genius or innovator, he is a skilled craftsman who can bring to life difficult scripts with inspired imagery. He often works with uncomfortable sexual situations, such as in his films Blind Beast, Manji and Afraid to Die. There is often a brutality associated with sex, and Red Angel is no exception. However, what is different here is the tenderness allowed between Okabe and Nishi, where Okabe's impotence allows him to be a non-aggressor. He still takes pleasure in pretty women, but pursues things no further than his condition allows him. Nishi, on the other hand, is desperate for sex coupled with affection, as opposed to the sex/death connection that has been her experienced up till now.
Aside from the sexual aspect of "Red Angel", the realities of a war-time surgical tent are shown in bold strokes. Limbs are cut off and carried away like an assembly line, and human beings are just so much meat. What Masumura could not do with color, this being a black and white film, he did with sound, with saws grinding bone and flesh producing more horror than any slasher flick. Soldiers come and go, one minute breathing and talking, the next minute a face in a body bag. But the doctors and nurses just keep on working through the gore, stitching up what they can, deciding who will live or who will die with nothing more than a few seconds triage.
I am really glad that Fantoma has brought so many of Masumura's films to DVD for Western audiences. He is an often overlooked director, although all of his flicks are worth watching. "Red Angel" is among his very best."