Drafthouse Films, the film distribution arm of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, has acquired of North American rights to Japanese director Hitoshi Matsumoto’s "R100," a lunatic tale of male self-destruction. R100 premiered at Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness section and made its US premiere at Fantastic Fest last weekend. A VOD/Digital and theatrical release is planned for 2014.
It is not suprising that Drafthouse is picking this one up. Drafthouse and Fest founder Tim League introduced the completely gaga "R100" himself, nothing that it was the last film booked but that League, a huge Matsumoto fan, wasn’t going to let it get away. "If you don’t like this movie, you are (expletive) stupid," League said.
In fact, Twitch Film’s Todd Brown was forced to eat a chef-prepared Fantastic Fest t-shirt after "R100" turned out to be more bonkers than "Why Don’t You Play in Hell?" (After seeing the latter at the Toronto International Film Festival, Brown tweeted that he would consume said garment if he saw a crazier movie during the fest. Later, he saw "R100," and, well, the shirt had to be consumed.)
"R100" (The title is itself a play on the Japanese movie ratings R-15 and R-18) is an almost early-Woody Allen-esque comedy (think "Without Feathers" era or "What’s Up, Tigher Lilly?") about Takafumi Katayama (Nao Ohmori, the star of "Ichi The Killer" fame) whose life has gone a bit pear-shaped. His department store job is mindless, his father-in-law is helping Katayama raise his young son while his wife is in a coma in the hospital and things are just looking kind of rough for the guy (the color palette for much of the film is all browns, tans and neutrals, washed out and quite 70’s looking in spots).
No wonder the guy feels the need to contact a dominatrix service and gets more than he bargained for. To wit: he never knows exactly when the doms (called "Queens," each with a special, uh, talent) are going to show up to beat or humiliate him. At first, things seem to go fine. Then the wheels start to come off and things start to get very, very strange.
Matsumoto masterfully switches tones, almost from scene to scene. There are quiet, tender scenes that could hail from an earnest indie movie. There is old school silent movie boffo comedy. There are a couple of solid runs at the fourth wall. As League noted in his introduction, Matsumoto takes his time to set up a joke, but the payoffs are tremendous. And it features the best use of the "Ode to Joy" since "Raising Arizona."