I was anticipating a pretty weird ride from Hitoshi Matsumoto's R100, but I didn't expect it to reach the heights (or depths?) of absolute lunacy that it does. This tale of a weary salaryman named Takafumi* who joins an underground S&M club to spice up his life (and fill the void left by the absence of his permanently comatose wife) ends up going to some very bizarre places.
The club - with the no-nonsense name of "Bondage" - specialises in a service wherein its clients are humiliated and beaten up in public places by an assortment of intimidating dominatrices. At first our humble salaryman seems to be enjoying the service (each episode sending him into a kind of transcendent state of euphoria), but it isn't long before things shift from kinky pleasure to malicious violence, threatening his livelihood and family. He wants to back out of the service, but it's too late for that. He's signed a one year contract, and Club Bondage doesn't offer refunds.
That was the premise I was expecting, and which R100 follows throughout its first act, but when the film's title inexplicably pops up half an hour or more into the story, I realised things were about to take a turn for the freaky. What follows is an increasingly confusing descent into absurdity and surrealism that, if you're up for it, is a hell of a lot of fun. Think early Lynch (right down to an almost completely monochromatic palette) by way of the more perverse recesses of the manga world. A psychosexual trip filled with weird imagery and enough what-the-fuck-am-I-watching moments to make Luis Buñuel's head spin. Matsumoto isn't afraid to push boundaries either, resulting in an instance of on-screen child abuse that requires the film to open with a disclaimer stating that it was achieved using sfx.
To top things off there's a meta subplot where we see a group of people (censors? A focus group?) struggle to come to grips with the same movie we're watching. Needless to say they're failing pretty miserably, and it's hilarious to watch. I was immediately reminded here of the binocular wielding "audience" from Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, not surprising considering Dupieux and Matsumoto's shared affinity for gonzo surrealism.
In a culture whose media is renowned (and infamous) for its preoccupation with extreme head-fuckery (hello Shunichiro Miki's The Warped Forest), R100 stands out as one of the most satisfyingly strange things I've yet to see.
Favourite Dominatrices: Sushi Crusher and Saliva Queen. Four out of Five Whips.
*played by Nao Ômori, none other than the titular lethal wimp from Miike's Ichi the Killer.