Watching R100 is like watching someone dance on the edge of a cliff, skillfully turning and spinning, executing piaffes and caprioles, your eyes spellbound to their grace. Then you watch the dancer take a graceful backflip off the edge of the cliff — completely at peace. You rush to the edge, and see that, rather than having smashed into the rocks surely waiting below, the dancer has perfectly dived into the ocean’s embrace, and is swimming beneath the waves with CGI mermaids and tropical fish, to a musical rendition of “under the sea.”
Even executed perfectly, it would be jarring– and this, this staccato piece is far from perfect. Still, the variegation lends a splendid richness to the film, and deepens the subtle humor, shifting and sparkling beneath the more bombastic jocularity.
This movie is like watching a director playing “Top That!” with himself. Over, and over again.
You start with a simple premise: a thirtysomething salaryman who works in a mindless store, and spends his nights taking care of his small child. But, he has a bit of a secret — he likes S&M.
For the first half of the movie, it plays out as a drama, with plenty of comedic interludes. He signs up for an “unbreakable contract” with an S&M club, and his normal routine falls apart. Despite a brief surrealistic interlude in the club, everything makes sense, as our director introduces his dominatrices.
A good deal of the humor depends on the you don’t do that nature of life in Japan, combined with the politeness of the onlookers.
He is served sushi, by a chef — clearly creating his humble visual art specifically for the protagonist. And then the dominatrix smashes it — and he eats the remains. Meanwhile, other people at the bar look, and whisper to each other about his conduct.
As the dominatrices get weirder (the director must top himself, over and over again), you learn more about our protagonist’s family and his job. A recurring question that side characters ask over and over is “Was that an earthquake?” — which the central character does not hear or feel.
It’s hard to tell exactly when the paradigm breaks — but it does so with the vigor (and beauty) of a fireflower exploding. What was small and constrained, dramatic and mournful — becomes a joyous celebration of possibilities.
The movie invites its own film critics.
There are dominatrix ninjas.
The “International House of Pleasure — Bondage” is led by a 7 foot tall blonde in Germanic style (actually played by “the world’s tallest female wrestler”).
And all that worldbuilding you saw in the first half pays off — little throwaways spiral into meaning.
This movie delights in foiling expectations, the director seems to be laughing at us all with the increasingly trippy (and self-inconsistent, which he points out himself, as if to say, “Have fun, stop thinking so much!”) steps towards the climax and still stranger finale.
Watch this movie, it’s a blast.