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Review: Hitoshi Matsumoto’s R100

Ai Tominaga standing in front of a table

To Infinity…

Hitoshi Matsumoto is a true entertainer, working as a TV host on crazy shows while directing completely crazy films. In less than 4 movies, he’s proved to be able to create unexpected stories, filled with incredible yet WTF ideas. Big Man Japan was a kaiju-oriented mockumentary, Symbol was a mind-blowing trip…

His third feature, Saya Zamurai was completely different, the director opted for a more straight-forward narrative structure, made of many repetitive and funny cycles, which keeps the story engaging with fresh ideas. In the end, it was a solid and touching film about the meaning of being an entertainer.

R100 marks Matsumoto’s return to his more WTF moments, the film looks like a mix between his first two films, it’s a crazy existentialist trip of unexpected proportions, going exactly where you couldn’t even possibly imagine.

LITTLE MAN JAPAN

It starts slowly, the cinematography is slightly desaturated, reflecting the profound boring life of this unhappy salaryman who wants to be humiliated anywhere just to get some satisfaction, some excitement in his unsurprising daily routine. It looks like a down-to-earth drama, with some strange awkward scenes from time to time.

And then the film reaches that special moment when Matsumoto decides to let his imagination run wild, from that point on, the film turns into some kind of weird WTF show. With weird characters everywhere — the queens with their unique talent… — plus some meta-sequences in which producers (it’s not clear) are completely flabbergasted by the film they’re watching, just like us, and they point out how absurd and crazy the film is, how the story doesn’t make sense… Apparently, yes?

So, the film offers many surprises, original choices that can be really disturbing, not because they’re quite kinky or weird, but because they tend to bring us into something completely unexpected. And no matter what, the film is obsessed with the very idea of pleasure — Beethoven’s Ode to Joy will never be the same…

… And beyond!

The craziness of the film manages to be surprising, but also quite disturbing as it doesn’t make sense — at first? Some scenes can be quite funny — the sushi bar, the humiliation sequences where nobody moves… — but at some point, it seems to go nowhere, boredom ensues.

When the story hits the 40 minutes mark, R100 already seems to be running out empty, leaving away the simple starting plot to deliver only more WTF ideas. It goes in many directions, and it’s not always convincing as Matsumoto makes also weird choices — the editing of the Queen of Saliva sequence is terrible, some actors seem to be way out of place.

An excessive trip that is perfectly defined by the title of the film, R100 is a reference to movie ratings like R-15 — a film restricted to persons under 15 years old. R100 is about going as far as possible in what is commonly tolerated.

IN THE END

R100 is an excessive trip trying to be as crazy, unexpected… as possible, even if it doesn’t make any sense, for the sole purpose of giving some kind of pleasure. Unfortunately, too much excessiveness brings boredom, more than anything else.

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