28 January 2002 | spankyromano
I don't wanna live anymore...
Black Angel is a film that represents the best of what Japanese contemporary cinema can be. It is that rare thing - an action movie that contains depth, character and intellect. The characters are all fully rounded, fleshed out and fallible. They are shades of grey, rather than black or white, and this ambivalence only lends to their realism. They even have to take time to recover after they receive a beating! It is a testament to Takashi that he can produce such empathy for these characters. His direction is polished and at times superb. One scene employs a single 8 minute take with no edits to emphasize the effect of relativity that the protagonist must be encountering on her fruitless attempts to escape and it is inspired. Takashi's trademark use of wide angle lenses is also at an apex in this movie, serving to enhance the effect of bodily movements while at the same time trapping the characters between the foreground and background, thereby outlining their plight (their lack of freedom is rooted in their desire to fulfil their destiny yet at the same time despising what they do). The violence is balletic and certainly tips it's hat to the Hong Kong heroic bloodshed movies of John Woo, et al but Takashi manages to make the set pieces his own by incorporating these formalistic camera techniques into realistic circumstances to draw the viewer into the world he has created. This is similar to Scorcese's "Raging Bull" where extremely formalistic techniques create a very realistic impression on the audience. The story deals with some familiar themes from Japanese cinema (revenge, rape, male-female power relations, etc...) and Takashi's use of motifs helps to relate the characters to one another and outline their connections. Even the title relates to the dichotomy facing our protagonist. The internal conflict of Ikko is mirrored by the external conflicts upon which she embarks. Black Angel is well conceived, well shot and well acted and deserves to be ranked among contemporary Japanese cinema's finest.