Masumura Yasuzo is the sort of film director, many leaving film school aspire to be. Strong, muscular film making in its robust treatment of subject, blended with an intellegence and political insight that is powerful. This is what great film makers do, day in and day out. To coin an over used phase, ‘talk truth to power’. His popular early film, GIANTS AND TOYS, does so with sardonic wit and equals the best of American cinema with the same potency like WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?. But as he grew older, his sardonic wit took on a heavier bite. It drew blood it went so deep. The is where we find housed the world war II masterpiece RED ANGEL.

Sakura Nishi (Ayako Wakao) is a nurse on the front lines in 1939 Manchuria. Japan is destroying China. Raping and pillaging. The soilders who are injured come to ramshackle field hospitals in places like Tientsin. As the war drags on, Sakura and her nursing staff find more war-wounded and shellshocked soldiers enter their wards. Their despair leads to her being raped. She is transferred to assisting head surgeon Dr Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida) as he conducts an never ending series of amputations, hopeless surgeries and dying embers. Chinese troops close in, Okabe operates more and with every hopeless case, Sakura falls deeper in love with her. He though is blind to this, having retreated into his own private hell of morphine addiction.

Now we cant fully praise Masumura Yasuzo for RED ANGEL. I do have a habit of over appraising the work of directors and to be honest this is such a richly ensemble venture.  Yes, we must mention the novel by Yorichika Arima. Yes, we must also mention the bold and dramatic monochrome scope cinematography by Setsuo Kobayashi. But most of all we must focus on the craft of acting. Firstly from Ayako Wakao. She was a long term collaborator with Masumura. David Desser in his commentary expands and vastly explores why her performance for the film is a product of this, but she is the core of the films power. Stoic, passionate and unending in her work. She gives us a measured central performance that underlines the stories point, that the utter hopelessness of war. Shinsuke Ashida strides next to her, with a Bresson type exterior and an even more complex interior that frequently enriches the character piece. Jonathan Rosenbaum excellent essay (he is a great choice to add and very much a boon for Arrow), illustrates that one could never be so powerful, without the other. The framing in the final act, reveals not only their insignificance in the world of conflict but also how they are so intertwined in story and screen. Great catch there.


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser
  • Newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
  • Not All Angels Have Wings, a new visual essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum
  • Original Trailer
  • Image Gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by Irene González-López

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.