R100 (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

Tired of the ennui of his every day life, Takafumi (Nao Ōmori) joins “Bondage,” an S&M club that offers a unique service: A variety of dominatrixes arrive at any moment and the customer is required to be submissive at all times. The contract lasts for a year and one is not allowed to withdraw from participation once the contracts are signed. Initially, Takafumi finds great pleasure in the encounters. They are exciting, painful, pleasurable. Eventually, however, the man begins to feel the leather-clad women have crossed the line by coming to his work and involving his son in the games.

“R100,” directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, is one of the most delightfully bizarre movies I have had the pleasure to come across in some time. It is a comedy at its core, but we are given a chance to appreciate the depressing life of the lead character and perhaps understand why he decided to risk everything in order to feel alive again. At times it is savagely funny, occasionally disgusting, and consistently interesting. Things do not always make sense, but I could not peel my eyes away from the screen.

Each dominatrix is given a surface personality and “expertise” so all of them are instantly memorable. A standout is named The Queen of Saliva (Naomi Watanabe), long-haired and carrying some extra weight, who commands such a presence, I did not know whether to be scared of or be amused by her, unlike The Gobble Queen (Katagiri Hairi) and The Voice Queen (Mao Daichi) where I knew exactly how to feel toward them. The Queen of Saliva lives up to her name and although the scene offers gross-out humor, it functions on such a high level of energy that I could never predict what was going to happen next. What ultimately transpires thrusts the story in a very strange but still entertaining third act.

The picture might not have been as effective if it isn’t for Ōmori’s performance. We can tell a lot about the character by how the actor walks from one point to another. He takes rather small steps, calm and slow, as if to delay arrival to his destination. His posture is neither straight nor hunched but it does look defeated, unexcited, like the man in control is not really living but solely existing. There is a sadness to this character that I found to be fascinating; strip away the BDSM club that he is involved in and he remains to be worthy of getting to know further.

The film is a film within a film. From time to time, the same group of people—who I assume to be test audiences—step outside of the screening room to discuss—rather, complain—about the elements that are not working in the movie. I found these scenes to be very funny because some of the questions and criticisms I had were expressed. For instance, why does an S&M club need a CEO?

To watch “R100” is to go down a rabbit hole. It will entertain those with an open mind and likely to frustrate those who require a specific track of what a comedy should be. I enjoyed the picture not only because it takes risks but also because many of them work. The material could have been a one-note joke. Instead, we are provided an orchestra full of strange, curious, shocking, amusing turn of events.

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