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January 22, 2015


r100 a.jpg

Hitoshi Matsumoto - 2013
Drafthouse Films

Not that Hitoshi Matsumoto's film is in anyways a more serious look at sadomasochism, but with the almost monochromatic look as well as the more transgressive activity depicted both visually and thematically go beyond the "Shades of Gray" some film viewers are anticipating. The basic setup has a salaryman, Takafumi, a furniture salesman at a large department store, who has contracted for a year of encounters with various dominatrixes who appear at random to inflict beatings, whippings and kicking in high heeled shoes. There are no "safe" words, and no rules other than that the contract is irrevocable.

Takafumi's pleasure is indicated by a ripple effect that is seen behind his head when the sessions are over. Takafumi's wife is in a coma, and there is no hope for her to regain consciousness. Matsumoto doesn't state anything outright, but with Takafumi's life outside of work limited to his father-in-law and his eight year old son, one might give this situation a Freudian interpretation of some kind of survivor's guilt mixed with relationships with women that sublimate sexual intimacy.

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Equally at random are scenes that take place at a screening, with R100 as a film in progress. Studio executives step out of the screening room between reels to discuss what is going on in the film, supposedly the work of a one-hundred year old director who looks suspiciously like Suzuki Seijun. These scenes are the funniest part of the film, especially when the director's spokesman explains that per the director, viewers have to be 100 years old to understand R100, hence the film's title. This, of course, infuriates one of the execs who notes that there aren't too many 100 year olds and how many would even go to a movie theater? (In case you're wondering, the real Suzuki Seijun is currently alive and well at age 91.)

There are a couple of moments when the characters think they are about to be caught in an earthquake. In one of the screening room scenes, it is explained that the director (never named) is using the hint of earthquakes as some kind of symbolism regarding contemporary Japan. I'm not sure what kind of point Matsumoto has in mind here, if he is really trying to make some kind of satiric statement about the Japanese male, or if he just had a comic premise that he tried to push as far as possible. Matsumoto even addresses some of the narrative inconsistencies and implausible moments that make up this odd narrative.

For some of us, there is the pleasure of seeing beautiful women who appear to be clothed by Agent Provocacteur. Among these is the "Queen of Violence" with her brutal roundhouse kicks as part of her date with Takafumi, and most hilariously, the "Destructive Queen" who flattens Takafumi's sushi with her palm, bewildering the chef and the two restaurant patrons who witness the silent Takafumi scooping up the remains, to eat with his hands. What may be more shocking for some viewers is to know that in its home turf of Japan, R100 is a Warner Brothers movie. Coincidentally, like a classic Warner Brothers movie that tested both the viewers' and the studio's limits regarding sex and violence, Takafumi has a love for the music by Beethoven.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 22, 2015 06:16 AM