Angel Dust marked Sogo Ishii's return to feature filmmaking after an almost ten-year hiatus, and it shows: it is bewildering and technically superb in about equal measure. After The Crazy Family, Ishii made a slew of nontheatrical films, and came back to feature filmmaking with his anarchic attack heavily restrained, or maybe refined. Or maybe also blunted.
Films like this trouble me, because they are so adept and yet at the same time fall to pieces when you examine them closely. What could have been a really strong and gripping story is undermined badly by two things: pretentiousness (in both the story's approach and in the material itself) and needless confusion passing for ambiguity. There's a big difference between leaving something open-ended and simply dumping the pieces in the audience's lap and expecting them to figure everything out. In one, you're letting them use their minds; in the other, you're evincing simple contempt for them.
Angel Dust is a trendy serial-killer movie in something of the same vein as Se7en or Silence of the Lambs, with creepy music and disturbing images mated to an equally unsettling story. Set in a pale, unpleasant-looking modern-day Tokyo, it opens with a series of murders being committed at six p.m. on the dot, all on the same city subway line. Ishii uses alternating close focus and zoom lenses to enhance the feeling of the impersonal, crushing crowds. These opening scenes are marvelous mood-setters and portents for the way the rest of the movie operates. Read more