22nd Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘R100′ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Nao Ômori, Lindsay Hayward, Mao Daichi, Hairi Katagiri, Gin Maeda, Suzuki Matsuo, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Eriko Satô, Shinobu Terajima, Ai Tominaga | Written by Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu, Tomoji Hasegawa, Kôji Ema, Mitsuru Kuramoto | Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto

R100-cast

Hitoshi Matsumoto is a director who, though I can’t say I know a great deal about, only that he is a comedian known for his surreal and crazy style, I have enjoyed greatly in the past with his films Symbol (2009) and Big Man Japan (2007) so I was intrigued and excited to see that R100, Matsumoto’s latest, was going to be a part of Frightfest in 2014.

A stiff bodied and reticent office worker, Takafumi, joins a strange club which has one rule, the rule being that, under no circumstances can you cancel your membership within the year in which the membership runs for. Simple. No. What this results in is hard to quite explain, but Takafumi experiences excitement unlike he has experiences before, and it just continues to get deeper, crazier and more absurd as the film goes on. Now, that’s the best way I can explain this film, and if you know Matsumoto’s previous work then you’ll also be familiar with the lack of ease in which explaining his work can result in.

This is one of those films that, like Matsumoto’s other releases, is not going to be enjoyed by everyone. It’s weird, plain and simple, and at times shocking, but I enjoyed it for the most-part. I was in the mood for the ludicrous, so this ticked the boxes, but it certainly isn’t a comfortable linear narrative that allows the viewer to switch off, no, this is bizarro-filmmaking from one of the current crop of Japans most unusual and individualistic directors.

Crude to some, exciting to others, this is certainly original (as far as I’m concerned anyway) and it was an enjoyable, quirky and fun, though bumpy and a little bit iffy-at-times, ride. There were times when the irrational was beginning to become tiresome, and times when I felt the urge to pause just to catch my breath, but overall this should intrigue enough people to garner a buzz or itself.

I will say though, regardless of my mixed opinions of the film, I find myself curiously awaiting Matsumoto’s next film, because it seems that he revels in the critical reception he receives and the dialogue he reads in which people say…”so, your films can’t possibly get any stranger, can they?”

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