R100Do you remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where it looked like Bugs was trapped, but he would pull out a can of paint and a brush, paint a door, and then escape through it? Hitoshi Matsumoto employs a similar device each time his movie, R100, is in danger of running into a dead end. Matsumoto simply changes the rules, not to mention the genre, and his madcap characters crash through the newly drawn door and veer off in another direction. For viewers willing to sit back and enjoy the ride without giving a whit about the destination, R100 is a blast of originality and a poke in the eye of the, at times, too staid Japanese film industry.

Matsumoto begins by playing it straight – or at least as straight as a film about the kinkiest S&M club ever can be. The name of the game and the place is Bondage, and the rules are strict: a one-year contract with absolutely no cancellations. In exchange, patrons can count on getting their asses kicked and suffering other ritual humiliations without prior warning – at home, at work, on the street, and even in the hospital room where their spouse lies in a persistent vegetative state – by a bevy of dominatrixes who are all fishnet stockings, high heels, and black patent leather bustiers.

The Manager (Matsuo Suzuki) explains the rules to a sad sack department store clerk (Nao Ômori), while the two spin around on a carousel in the Bondage offices, surrounded by stacked tiers of S&M dream & scream queens. The scene, like much of the early going of R100 is exotic, hypnotic, and a little psychotic. Life is already bitch slapping this guy on a daily basis, so having it delivered by a tall, lean and mean slice of naughty like Eriko Sato actually sounds good. Good here is measured by ripples across the screen denoting sexual satisfaction, and department store dude is happily surfing the waves in the early going. But as the girls and the scenarios become increasingly outrageous, our hero begins to blanch. The Queen of Voices gives way to the Queen of Saliva, and by the time The Gobbler shows up, he’s looking for a loophole.

We leave the carousel at that point, and are ushered by Matsumoto onto a mini-bus with no brakes that zooms through satirical bits on documentaries, corporations, earthquakes, eccentric film directors, harried policemen (Matusomoto himself in a terrific cameo), and 1950’s science fiction flicks. There’s no straight-line narrative to follow, simply loops within loops of semi-outrageous fun. The title of the film refers to the Japanese movie rating system; R100 indicates that the film is not suitable for anyone under 100 years of age. Given that one of the running gags in the film is that viewers are seeing the movie as it is being screened by the ratings board, the ridiculousness of the entire affair gets a full and independent airing.

Matsumoto goes out of his way to assure viewers that no animals or children were harmed in the making of the film (an important disclaimer given that a small boy ends up suspended in an elaborate S&M rope hook-up, an experience that will undoubtedly continue to ripple through his life as he gets older). Delicate sensibilities, on the other hand, may be bruised by this raucous celebration of irreverence.

Three and a half stars.

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