This uncompromising docudrama “progresses from breathless history lesson to grueling chamber piece to tense action thriller” (Dennis Lim, New York Times). Featuring a hypnotic score by ex-Sonic Youth member Jim O’Rourke, it charts the trajectory of Japan’s radical left from its beginnings in the idealistic student movements of the 1960s to the rise and collapse of the United Red Army. This far-left group infamously tortured and killed its own members for not properly adhering to Communist doctrine, and came to its end during an armed standoff with police in 1973.
This film was a work of immense personal importance to Wakamatsu: he was banned from travel to the United States because of his radical political activities in the ’70s. He went so far as to use his own country house as the setting of the film’s climactic shootout, destroying it in the process. A fitting final statement (Wakamatsu was hit and killed by a taxi in 2012), United Red Army is an honest look back at the ideals and tumultuous times of his youth through the lens of age and experience. (Dir.: Koji Wakamatsu, Japan, 2007, 190 min., 35mm, Japanese with English subtitles)