A small group of radical extremists break into a US military base and steal a cache of weapons from their compound but just as they are about to get away they are fired upon by 2 soldiers. Several members are killed but the survivors including their leader who has been blinded during the raid manage to escape with some of the weapons. The group which are called The Fall Army belong to a larger organisation of terrorists named The Four Seasons Society. The overall leader is a man codenamed Year with 4 armies within the society each named after one of the 4 seasons. The leader of each group has been codenamed after a specific month of the year and the soldiers under them are named after a day of the week. Soon after 2 members of The Fall Army are visited by The Winter Army who have been mobilised due to the failure of the group’s attack with an order from Year that the group has now been dismantled. Tortured by February, the leader of The Winter Army and his girlfriend are forced to confess where they have hidden the weapons they stole. Angry by the betrayal from Year, the blinded Fall Army leader October decides to splinter from The Four Seasons Society and form his own faction with the survivors of the military base attack. With little money they have left and with some of the bombs they kept hidden from The Winter Army, October and his group start their own little guerilla war on authority in Tokyo.
Koji Wakamatsu was a director who was interested and involved with Japanese terrorist groups having made several movies about them in his lifetime. During the late 60’s he become involved in the underground student movement in Japan and a year before this movie was made, Wakamatsu took a trip to Palestine to make the bold “Red Army/PFLP: Declaration Of World War” movie about the struggles of the Palestinians in regaining the land they lost to the Israelis. Years later in 2007 he would revisit the genre again with “United Red Army”. This movie is an intriguing tale about a group of revolutionaries so consumed by their politicial beliefs that by rebelling against authority and waging an urban guerilla war they think it’s for the greater good. It soon dawns on the viewer that these confused and no doubt misguided people haven’t got a clue what they’re doing. You only have to witness the Fall Army’s bombing missions near the end to see that they haven’t got any specific targets in mind, just as long as their activities causes maximum carnage in Tokyo that’s all that matters to them. Whatever sympathetic views you may initially have for the group is quickly thrown out when their bombing campaign injures innocent people. Due to several members of the group having died in their mission to steal weapons there is turmoil within the group afterwards. Some are questioning one another whether it is wise for them to carry on with their leader blind. It’s obvious that a spy from one of the other armies in the Four Seasons Society has been placed in the Winter Army to report back to Year on what they’re doing. In the end the small ragtag band of rebels decide to take matters into their own hands and bring their own brand of chaos to the streets of Tokyo which sees them setting off bombs all over the city. It is unsure whether these become suicide attacks or not but there are these little hints in the dialogue between the members that they intend to bow out in a blaze of glory. Wakamatsu shoots these bombing attacks in quite a frenzied style to highlight the mayhem that is taking place.
This is a well put together and somewhat arty movie by Wakamatsu which has it’s fair share of sex and violence. It’s no surprise given his tag as being one of the pioneers in the pink-eiga genre that there are numerous gratitious sex scenes in the movie which may offend some people. They’re hardly erotic and most of the scenes has the couple partaking in sex spouting some revolutionary claptrap to each other. The problem with these sex scenes as well is they interrupt the flow of the movie just as something interesting is happening and the momentum of the previous scene is lost by it. The viewer will also notice a rather apparent spelling mistake during the group’s mission to steal the weapons. As they come to the bunker where the weapons are stored there a sign above the door that says ‘Weapons Wearhouse’! Who knows whether it was a deliberate mistake or not?
Many critics have pointed out this movie is similar in style to the early works of French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard. Having only seen one movie of his (À bout de souffle) I’m not in a position to agree with them or not. The movie is mostly shot in B&W but ocassionally it switches quite unexpectedly to colour. I did like this technique by Wakamatsu. The acting by the cast is decent enough but nobody in my mind really stands out.
Ecstasy Of The Angels isn’t one of Koji Wakamatsu’s best movies. It has it’s moments but too much of this movie is interrupted by the frequent sex scenes which doesn’t serve any purpose to the plot.
No trailer but here’s the opening scene for the movie:
Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5