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50 shades of The Game
Loves: Weird movies, meta concepts
Likes: Japanese films
Dislikes: Oddity for oddity's sake, S&M
Hates: Awful facial prosthetics
It seems almost appropriate that R100 arrives on home video on the heels of the box-office success of 50 Shades of Grey. The two are somewhat like companion pieces. Anytime I would hear people talk about how shocking the S&M in 50 Shades, I would chuckle. I remarked to a friend that I wished that some budding young Tyler Durden would splice the appropriate scenes from Von Trier's Nymphomaniac into 50 Shades, replacing Jamie Dornan with Jamie Bell, and unreel it in front of unsuspecting audiences. Now, I kind of wish that cut could be double-featured with Hitoshi (Big Man Japan) Matsumoto's R100, to allow fans of the "mommy porn" novel to really question their interest in the subject matter.
In R100 Takafumi isn't having the best of lives. He works in a department store, soullessly pushing furniture, while his wife lays in a hospital bed in a coma. His young son lives a solitary life without a mother, and most of the time without his father, though grandpa tries to help out when he can. Takafumi's only release in the world is acting as a submissive, so that women can abuse him, a desire he fulfills with a one-year--unbreakable--contract, where he can be assaulted and humiliated in public at anytime. The joy he experiences at the blows of their hands, whips and feet is about the only feelings he really has, emotion brilliantly depicted via a series of specialized, leather-bound dominatrices, in wonderfully stylistic (and often blackly comic) montages.
However, even this joy leaves him when the contract spills into his work and home lives, and spirals out of control, culminating in an insane series of scenes that combines impersonations, candlewax, spitting and a woman known as the Queen of Gobbling. It's absolutely insane and it forces Takafumi to fight back, setting off a war between the salaryman and an army of dominatrices, in an act that may as well have arrived from another film entirely. Through it all, Matsumoto keeps it all interesting and fascinating to see, transitioning roughly from dark comedy to sentimentality, which can result in a bit of whiplash. It's almost episodic in a way, broken up into chapters, with each dominatrix getting a chance to shine, particularly a sushi-hating pro and the spitter, who may be the S&M highlight of the film.
There's a lot going on here, especially in terms of the effect the beatings have on Takafumi, which results in a digital distortion of his face, rendering it disturbingly childlike, yet alien, and barely-visible ripples of pleasure that emanate from inside of him. The face, when compared to that of his son, takes the whole affair to a far creepier level, but certainly no creepier than when his son becomes entangled in the contract, in what is the single most upsetting segment of the film. I thought Nymphomaniac was off-putting. This one tops it in an entirely different way. Everything builds pretty effectively though as the film rolls on, to a climax that's probably as reasonable and acceptable as any this movie could have offered, while simultaneously making absolutely no sense. The influence of generations of transgressive filmmaking comes to fruition in this movie.
The most unique element of the film, and possibly the least successful, is a series of inserted meta scenes which see a group of people charged with giving the film at hand a rating (the meaning of the movie's title) discuss the more noteworthy moments and, in one particularly enjoyable passage, how ridiculous the film is. Though there's an attempt to make these scenes pay off in the end, they are clumsily introduced and have no real connection to the rest of the film, outside of how they force the film to pause occasionally, while also giving voice to likely questions from the audience. While I get the intent and the attempted climax of this portion of the movie, if these scenes were removed, there would have been little effect to the movie overall.
R100 arrives on one Blu-ray, packed into a clear Blu-ray keepcase, which has a two-sided cover with more interesting illustrated art on the inside. An animated menu offers a choice to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the special features. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English SDH.
The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer here is far from high-end, with a great deal of noise and heavy grain, along with a moderate level of fine detail, but the stylistic look is captured well with a desaturated and filtered palette that verges on black and white in some scenes, and is generally on the cold side for most of the run-time. Digital distractions don't seem to be an issue, though with the ever-present noise, some issues may be camouflaged. Black levels are solid.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is something of a disappointment, though what is presented is clean and easy to understand (as far as my hyper-limited knowledge of Japanese is concerned.) The sound is mostly a center-channel affair, with the sides getting some action and most of the music, with very light spillover into the rear speakers. The only exceptions are a few of the major numbers in the score, where the entire soundfield gets some strong use. Bass is barely present, and sound effects are rather weak, with gunshots sounding like cap guns and explosions registering weakly.
The only real on-disc entry is the film's trailer, which does a fine job of building interest in the movie. Beyond that there's an assortment of other Drafthouse previews.
Inside the package there's a 12-page booklet with stills from the film and a brief and only moderately interesting interview with actress Lindsay Kay Hayward, who completes the impressive feat of delivering the most over-the-top performance in the entire film. There's also a download code.
The Bottom Line
You have to look pretty hard to find someone who appreciates weird cinema more than your humble reviewer, but even I found R100 to be a bit too off-kilter to really work as a cohesive film. There are plenty of interesting elements, but like the film's meta sub-plot, overall it doesn't quite work plot-wise. On the other hand, the film oozes style, which lets you gloss over the weaker parts rather easily. While the Blu-ray looks and sounds decent, there's essentially no extras, so a purchase is likely more than most people require, since the film doesn't demand multiple viewings, but should be experienced by anyone with a love of the off-beat.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.