R100 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Japan - Yoshimoto R&C
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (26th November 2015).
The Film

"R100" (2013)

At a fancy café, Takafumi (played by Nao Omori) and a sexy woman in a trench coat (played by Ai Tominaga) sit at a table as he discusses Beethoven’s "Symphony #9" and quotes “Ode to Joy”, when suddenly she stands up and kicks him in the face. After she leaves, he follows her outside where he is kicked and assaulted by her which makes him fall down a flight of concrete steps. She takes off her trench coat to reveal a sexy black dominatrix outfit, which Takafumi looks at in pure awe, a feeling of complete satisfaction. His eyes go pitch black, his cheeks expand, and his face warps into a bizarre baby-like form.

A flashback reveals that Takafumi had gone to a place called “Bondage”, which has an unusual system of entertainment: clients pay for a 1-year service in which dominatrixes would “pleasure” the client in various ways, but they would appear at random times and random places which the client cannot choose. The client must be the masochist and may not return any sadistic activity towards the women. They literally show up in random places. While Takafumi dines at a sushi bar, a dominatrix appears and crushes all his food. While sitting next to a fountain, yet another dominatrix appears from the water and drags him in. Of course onlookers react a bit strangely at the embarrassing behavior, but with each of these sadistic acts done to Takafumi, he gets completely fulfilled.

Takafumi returns home to reveal he is a father, with an elementary school aged son named Arashi (played by Haruki Nishimoto). His wife (played by YOU) has been in a coma for 3 years and things look rough for the family. Takafumi frequently visits her in the hospital and talks to her, but his father-in-law (played by Gin Maeda) is furious that doctors cannot do any more to help her condition. Things start getting out of hand for Takafumi when a dominatrix appears in the bathroom at his workplace, something he says he did not sign up for and was not expecting the Bondage service to come into his personal workspace. Of course this leads to more sadistic acts from the dominatrix which he is both embarrassed to get caught, and slightly excited by the fact. Things get even more personal when his son says a woman in black gave him a small figure of a man tied up in bondage gear, which he had no idea what it was. Takafumi calls Bondage to tell him that they are going too far by involving his family, but they claim that this is all part of the 1 year contract. How will Takafumi escape from the madness that keeps getting even more sadistic?

As the above synopsis seems like a suspenseful film the truth is that it is anything but suspenseful. “R100” plays for absurdity and black comedy, and not drama or suspense as one would expect if a director like David Cronenberg or David Fincher may have done if given the same script. Director Hitoshi Matsumoto is one of the leading comedians in Japan, and many have expected his style of comedy of witty remarks to be part of his feature film work only to be confused and disappointed. Like director Takeshi Kitano before him, his rash and silly style of comedy on television is completely different from his film work which takes inspiration from the violent action films of Kinji Fukasaku. (who was originally slated to direct “Boiling Point” which eventually became Kitano’s debut as a director), the posterboy director of breaking the rules Jean-Luc Godard, and his own unique brand of creativity. Matsumoto also plays by his own rules and creativity, with his previous films being the kaiju and superhero parody “Big Man Japan” (2007), the abstract and weird “Symbol” (2009), and the touching samurai comedy-drama “Scabbard Samurai” (2010). His fourth film “R100” was written and constructed in a backwards fashion: The title was thought of first and then the story.

In the motion picture rating system in Japan, there are ratings such as R-15 (no one under 15 admitted) and R-18 (no one under 18 admitted). Matsumoto had the thought of “What if there was a film that was rated R-80 or R-100, a movie that only geezers were able to watch?” It’s a page out of the Roger Corman handbook on how to make a movie: the title came first, the script came later. During the film, it unusually cuts to scenes of people watching the film while producers and staff trying to make sense of the film. In the theater sits the 100 year old film director (played by Masaya Takahashi) who is watching his latest film made specifically by a 100 year old for 100 year olds. Maybe this was a way to somehow reason the weirdness and problems, as the producer characters address “How did they know he would be there?” or “How could the woman impersonate the comatose wife without knowing her?”, but the assistants say it was the 100 year old director’s choices, as he had carte blanche. It is a weak point in the film to suddenly cut away to “reality” from the story, as it happens in very few occasions without any specific reasoning. Films like “The Princess Bride” executes the technique well, but in "R100", the audience is so suddenly dragged out of the story that it is hard to get back into it. There are similarities to David Fincher’s “The Game” in which a game revolves around a person’s life with people coming and interacting unexpectedly. Also with David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome”, in which a man’s S&M sexual obsession goes so far to the point that reality and imagination blurs together.

Nao Omori playing the submissive father is almost the opposite of the “Ichi the Killer” character he portrayed years ago, whose trauma was pushed outward to extreme violence, while in “R100” the trauma forced him to receive violence from others. The straightfaced performance is somehow fitting to the character, though his face during his S&M fulfillment is entirely CGI enhanced. The supporting characters are all on screen for a very short period of time, but they make their performances stand out. The first dominatrix played by supermodel Ai Tominaga has no dialogue at all but what an impact she makes. The spit-queen dominatrix played by comedian Naomi Watanabe has quite a funny role mixing both politeness in the way she speaks but then disgustingly spits on her client over and over again. The craziest of all is the CEO of Bondage played by the 7-ft tall former wrestler Lindsay Kay Howard, who screams profanities (in English) and is a towering destructive force. Matsumoto himself makes a small cameo role as the police officer who talks to Takafumi, which in fact is one of the funniest moments of the film, as it addresses the absurdity of the character’s situation from an outsider’s perspective. Atsuro Watabe’s character who warns Takafumi of the dangers of the Bondage organization seems to be a very important character, but in essence, his character gets the least explanation and ultimately is a waste of time.

“R100” is not quite sure what it wants to be. Is it supposed to be a dark comedy about the world of S&M, a looking into the minds of the weirdly kinky elderly generation, or something else entirely? It is not sickly depraved as most would imagine and it is not coherent enough to fulfill satisfaction. At least my face didn’t turn into the bizarre baby-like form by the end.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played back on all Blu-ray players worldwide

Video

The Japanese Blu-ray by Yoshimoto R&C presents the film in 1080p in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The entire film is covered in a slight sepia tone to the image so browns and blacks look especially strong while all other colors are in a muted tone. The picture is clear with grain visible, though at times in the movie theater segments, the title screen which appears several times is covered in dust and specs but that is completely intentional.

Audio

There are 2 audio tracks available:

Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo


The 5.1 track is lively especially with Beethoven’s “Symphony #9” in which various portions of the composition comprise the soundtrack. As for dialogue, it is always clear with no instances of dropouts or unintelligible portions. There are a few portions of the film which are in English as well, and during those scenes, burned-in Japanese theatrical subtitles appear on the bottom of the frame.

There are optional English subtitles for the main feature. The Japanese Blu-ray for Matsumoto’s previous film “Scabbard Samurai” didn’t have any subtitles, so this is a welcome addition. Supervised by Australia born Japan based comedian Chad Mullane who frequently works with Matsumoto at Yoshimoto, there are no errors in grammar or spelling to speak of.

Extras

Although the main feature includes English subtitles, sadly and expectedly, the extras do not.

"Making" featurette (14:29)
The featurette covers the basic ground of how the initial idea of the film, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with various cast and crew.
in 1.78:1, in 1080i 60hz, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo

"Campaign Footage" featurette (20:46)
Footage from various premieres around the world including in Japan, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and more, with stage greetings and interview footage.
in 1.78:1, in 1080i 60hz, in Japanese and English LPCM 2.0 stereo, with burned-in Japanese subtitles for the English portions

2 Japanese Theatrical Teasers (2:46)
The Japanese teasers don't give too much info on what people should be expecting.
in 1.78:1, in 1080i 60hz, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo

12-page booklet
The theatrical mini-pamphlet is included. Inside are production notes, information on the cast and crew, and photos. This is only available in the first pressing.
in Japanese

The extras are quite paltry, with the featurettes being much too short and does not offer much in terms of analysis or answers. Matsumoto has never recorded a commentary track, but here is one that could have benefited, as well as more in depth interviews with the cast or crew rather than the short clips used.

Packaging

The Blu-ray comes in a standard size Blue colored Blu-ray keep case. A very strange choice as a black case would have been more appropriate, and the Yoshimoto R&C Blu-ray of Matsumoto’s previous film “Scabbard Samurai” did come in a black keep case.
For the first pressing, in addition to the aforementioned booklet, the first pressing of the Blu-ray is housed in a black slipcase with the title card on the front and the Bondage “B” symbol on the rear. Also is a J-card that wraps around the case.

Overall

Although the job of the dominatrixes in “R100” was to make the client satisfied, director Hitoshi Matsumoto’s latest film is overall unsatisfying for the most part. Fans wanting to see bizarre Japanese cinema which doesn’t play by the standard rules will get a kick out of it, but S&M fans, the Japanese comedy fans or the average filmgoers will scratch their heads in unsatisfied confusion. Although I am not in the supposed target audience for the film, as I am not yet 100 years old, it could be possible that if I watch the film when I become a centenarian, I might fully understand and appreciate it. I guess that I will have to revisit it in 70 years time…

The Film: C Video: A+ Audio: A Extras: C Overall: B-

 


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