Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Writer: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Producer: Akihiko Okamoto
Stars: Nao Omori, Mao Daichi, Shinobu Terajima, Hairi Katagiri, Ai Tominaga, Eriko Sato, Naomi Watanabe, Gin Maeda, You, Haruki Nishimoto, Suzuki Matsuo, Atsuro Watabe, Lindsay Hayward
An average family man signs an unbreakable commitment to an S&M club that sends mistresses to dominate him at random moments in everyday life.
If a film by David Lynch mated with a movie from John Waters, and that offspring tried morphing into a Farrelly Brothers comedy as though envisioned by Terry Gilliam, yet using the cinematic language of Stanley Kubrick, the result might look something like Hitoshi Matsumoto’s “R100.” If that metaphor makes no sense at all, don’t worry. Neither does “R100.” Although if that introduction is decipherable enough to arouse a curious smile, you are better suited to knowing which side you will fall on when the movie inevitably divides those turned on from those turned off by its unrivaled brand of unique black humor.
The brilliance of “R100,” if that word can be used to describe the film, is that it ramps up the bizarre meter so slowly that the audience never consciously realizes how subtly they were sucked into an uncertain absurdist unreality. One of the few things I know for sure is that I used the word “if” in four of the previous five sentences. That many qualifiers are unavoidable in order to accurately assess something so firmly entrenched in “for acquired tastes only” territory.
Takafumi has as average a life as average lives get. A tie around his neck and a briefcase in one hand, the Japanese Everyman works as a department store salesman, visits his coma patient wife daily, and tends to his young son while otherwise never risking any activity that might upset his unassuming apple cart.
After having his ass literally kicked by a leather-clad dominatrix, Takafumi discovers a taste for the submissive side of the S&M fetish scene. Tantalized, titillated, and hungry for thrills, he signs a one-year contract with a club called Bondage to receive random beatings from a variety of mistresses poised to strike when he least expects it.
When one of the lethal ladies arrives unannounced at a sushi bar to flatten his fish with her fist, things are just fine. But things start going too far once the vinyl outfits and riding crops show up in the men’s room at work. All bets are definitely off when Takafumi’s young son ends up hogtied with a ball gag in his own mouth and Takafumi decides to take matters into his own hands. Too bad he forgot that the first rule of Bondage Club, and the only rule for that matter, is that no one leaves Bondage Club.
What starts as an alluringly kinky sex fantasy filtered through a Chuck Palahniuk sieve of disturbing darkness from a Hell’s Kitchen alleyway melts first into farcical satire and then into live-action cartoon. The story is about extreme fantasy overtaking real life and the movie mirrors that same arc with its increasingly loopy presentation.
Tethered initially to a seedy side of recognizable reality, the circumstances surrounding Takafumi’s unusual predicament spiral into such an orbit of oddity that Act One and Act Three look and feel as if they come from separate movies. Yet “R100” is a masterwork of cinematic deceit with how mischievously writer/director Hitoshi Matsumoto hides the transformation behind steady-handed staging that is just as sincere whether depicting a mundane furniture-shopping family, the mistress Queen of Gobbling swallowing a victim whole, or a ninja woman exploding in a grenade blast to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
As if his movie cannot progress any further back into the left field it came from, Matsumoto breaks the fourth wall to publicly acknowledge the mental instability of his own movie’s personality. A self-aware side plot involving a focus group screening the same film verbally echoes identical sentiments of strangely delighted confusion running through the viewer’s mind. Matsumoto is in effect granting permission to stop questioning the madness and to start basking in the gloriousness of the insanity.
“R100” is a play on the Japanese film rating format. The version of “R100” screening within “R100” is directed by a centenarian who claims that only fellow 100-year-olds can fully understand his film. I look forward to putting that notion to the test on my birthday in 2075. For now, more important than understanding the movie’s meaning, if there even is one, is understanding that it is fun, funny, and immensely entertaining, even if it doesn’t make a lick of logical sense.
NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.
Review Score: 75