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Chronicles of Inferno: Japan’s Art Theater Guild

Friday, February 8, 2013
7:00 p.m. Ecstasy of the Angels
Koji Wakamatsu (Japan, 1972)

Introduction/Go Hirasawa

Go Hirasawa, an expert on Japanese political cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, teaches at Meiji-Gakuin University in Tokyo.

Read the New York Times obituary of director Koji Wakamatsu, who died in October.

(Tenshi no kōkotsu). An extreme-left militant group finds itself consumed by paranoia and betrayal in Koji Wakamatsu’s notorious cocktail of politics, porn, and protest, one of the most infamous films of the Japanese (or any) New Wave. Written by Masao Adachi (who later joined the Japanese Red Army) and with some cast and crew drawn from other Red Army members, the film tracks a militant cell that, after successfully raiding an American compound for weapons, finds itself betrayed by their leaders. Sex, dialectics, and violence follow (often simultaneously, this being a Wakamatsu production), with the final protest a massive bomb attack across Tokyo. “Open fire! We’ll smash the false future!” cries one character; armed and erotic, Ecstasy does just that, aiming directly at Japan’s complacency, and cinema’s as well. Torn from the proverbial headlines, the film was released during a wave of real-life guerrilla-bomb attacks on Tokyo police stations (one directly across from ATG’s main theater), and just weeks after the United Red Army’s hostage situation at the Asama Lodge.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by De Deguchi (Masao Adachi). Photographed by Hideo Ito. With Ken Yoshizawa, Hidekatsu Shibata, Susumu Iwabuchi, Shinichi Matsushima. (89 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W/Color, 35mm, From Blaq Out)