R100 is the fourth film directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto who gained fame as a comedian on the small screen in the 80’s. To be frank, I wasn’t familiar with his work, which made for an even more surprising experience when watching  R100.  While most Japanese movies crossing the Pacific are usually epic tales or crime stories, there is also an important subculture based on erotic, kinky and pornographic films.

Nao Ohmori plays Takafumi Katayama, a lonely father whose wife has been in the coma for quite a while. Joining an S&M club to spice things up, he quickly realizes things are getting out of control as various dominatrices show up unexpectedly in his everyday life, whether he’s at home, walking down the street, having lunch in restaurants or at work. This is however only one layer of the story as we quickly find out that what we are watching is a film within a film made by some a weird, aging filmmaker.

With its mix of dark, absurd humor, post-modernism, surrealism and sado-masochist themes, Mr. Matsumoto’s delivers a very unique work which is most likely unlike anything you’ve seen before – the one movie that came to my mind while watching the ending was Philippe de Broca’s Le Magnifique which stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and also features epic battles set in an alternate universe (in this case, the central character is writing a book).

If you are considering giving R100 a shot, you should be warned that some of its content might be considered offensive as Mr. Matsumoto has no problems pushing the boundaries – besides the obvious S&M setting, he doesn’t seem to have any taboo when it comes to age, body shape, etc. While some of the jokes might be flirting with bad taste, I found his slightly sick sense humor both challenging and rewarding; to give you an idea of what to expect, he’s not that far from directors such as Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus, Perdita Durango) and Takeshi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition).

What probably makes R100 works is the fact that he builds his work in crescendo. While the film starts with a serious, austere tone, Mr. Matsumoto injects stronger doses of absurd humor as the movie unfolds before reaching an expected over-the-top climax. As a result, spectators who are not comfortable with the setting get the chance to leave early, before it gets worse – as it happened at the AFI Fest screening –, while others can keep embracing willingly what’s coming their way.

What I found even more amusing is the fact that the whole thing was actually designed to hide some kind of morality tale – if you can call it like that – which, without spoiling too much of the fun, aims at showcasing that after reaching a maximum level of pain, a masochist gets somewhat enlighten, switching to the other side to become sadistic.

With an edgy subject and an experimental – some might call it messy or flawed – structure, R100 is certainly not destined to become a classic but can certainly find its place as a cult film.

Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto – Actors: Mao Daichi, Lindsay Kay Hayward – Running Time: 1:40 – Year: 2013 – Country: Japan

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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.