R100 (2013)

R100 first published by FilmDivider

“Will you make waves in the fountain of ecstasy? Are you a chosen one? Can you enter the realm of the senses and experience unparalleled euphoria? Wouldn’t you like to open that forbidden door? The wheels are already in motion. The key to the door of uncharted pleasure is already yours.”

The speaker is the tuxedo’d boss (Suzuki Matsuo) of a strange S&M club “for gentlemen”, signing up salaryman Takafumi Katayami (Ichi the Killer‘s Omori Nao) for a one-year contract during which “a variety of dominatrixes will appear in varying situation.”

Takafumi is a timid, middle-aged furniture salesman left alone to look after his young son Arachi (Nishimoto Haruki) while his wife Setsuko (You) languishes in a coma that has now lasted three years. So, very much like the protagonist of Miike Takashi‘s Audition (1999), Takafumi is struggling to reconcile fatherhood and (virtual) widowhood with an abiding, guilt-tinged desire for sexual kicks. Except that Miike’s intense psychodrama of pain and passion is here, impossibly, replaced by bizarre sex comedy.

At first at pre-arranged times and then at random, contemptuous angels clad in fishnets and black PVC appear to harm and humiliate Takafumi until he achieves ecstatic orgasms, which are here figured visually by his eyes becoming alien black slits while a CG ripple-effect halo appears behind his head. But as these increasingly monstrous dominatrices start intruding upon his workplace and his home, and include Setsuko and even Arachi in their cruel games, our meek masochist will turn, taking on not just the Queen of Voices, the Queen of Spit and the Queen of Gobbling, but also the club’s gigantic CEO (Lindsay Hayward) and her naughty ninja army. They’re headed for a battle where sadism and masochism will combine in a deliriously transgressive Ode to Joy, and Takafumi will find a way to combine the roles of father, mother and pervert.

In R100, director/co-writer Matsumoto Hitoshi, who also cameos as a seen-it-all-before policeman, infuses the realities of a humdrum life with wildly surreal fantasy. He punctuates the story with false-alarm earthquakes, disco numbers, Bond-style escapades and fourth-wall-breaking vox pops, only for all these madcap proceedings to be regularly interrupted by a group of bewildered film classifiers, shown wondering aloud between reels what to make of what they have just seen, in a metacritical chorus on the movie’s many digressions and deviations.

Even the title R100 constitutes its own specially invented rating, cryptically encoding the ultra-niche nature of the film’s ideal audience. In other words, while Takafumi’s pursuit of pleasure is also ours in viewing the picture, this kinkily outré, deliriously self-aware film is the very definition of ‘not for everyone’, and may leave many feeling cold and not a little confused. Yet for those chosen ones who are open to its rarefied entertainments, fountains of uncharted ecstasy await.

© Anton Bitel