The Lust of Angels, directed by Nagisa Isogai

Nagisa Isogai

2014, 40 minutes, UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival. Featured on limited edition DVD New Directors from Japan by Third Window Films November 2014
Review by Mike Sullivan

Spoiler alert

The Lust of Angels stands out from the many other Japanese films being shown in London at the moment for the fact that it was written and directed by a woman, Nagisa Isogai, and the short movie’s main cast are all girls.

On top of the fact that seeing a Japanese film by a female director is something of a rarity, Nagisa herself is relatively unknown, and we have to thank Third Window Films for bringing her work to the UK. Over the summer Third Window Films started a Kickstarter fundraising project to release a limited edition DVD called New Directors from Japan, to include the work of three young talents who hadn’t yet received any kind of distribution outside of Japan – or even within it. The appetite for such a project was such that they reached their goal within days which ensured that the DVD would be produced and go on sale in November 2014.

Nagisa’s contribution to the DVD comprises The Lust of Angels, an earlier short film called My Baby, and an interview. Furthermore, The Lust of Angels, along with films by Kosuke Takaya and Hirobumi Watanabe – the two other directors on the disk – had its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London.

Speaking with Nagisa before the premiere she emphasized how grateful she was to Third Window Films for giving her this opportunity, while also being extremely nervous about how the UK audience would react. Regarding the film itself she explained that the original inspiration for the story was based on something that happened to her friend at high school. A man flashed a group of schoolgirls and, contrary to his expectations, the whole group started making fun of him and one girl even attacked him. Nagisa used this for the basis of her story and expanded upon it.

The film itself covers the twisted mixed desires of a group of four schoolgirls within a world of male gropers and out of control schoolboys. On the infamous Hanagawa train line all girls are aware that there are many gropers, and so most girls take long detours rather than risk riding on the train. One day Saori is on the train and reading a little red book when a middle aged man starts to grope her from behind, unbeknownst to him another schoolgirl, Yuriko, nearby has noticed.

She attacks the groper, slashing him with a razor blade; however both the groper and Saori run off when the train stops. Later at school the teacher introduces a new student, Saori is shocked to see Yuriko. The two girls become friends, and along with two other girls make the decision to hunt gropers.

However, their hunt exposes deep divides amongst the girls which are mainly personified by Saori’s desire to be touched and Yuriko’s hatred of it. The wide gap between them leads to their ideals of justice becoming twisted, and puts them all in danger.

The movie has a real 1970s feel to it, while the plot creates real tension by addressing an all-too-familiar problem in Japan. At 28 Nagisa Isogai is still a young director and we can hope to see more from her in the future.

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