by Jason Suzuki
Halfway through R100, the story of a father (Nao Omori) trying to raise his son while his wife is in a coma and while he has joined an S&M club, the film stops. We see a group of people gathered around each other, some smoking, all in silence. We soon realize these are producers and PAs taking a break from screening R100, no longer the latest film from Hitoshi Matsumoto but the film within the film, the last work from a 100 year old director. This is not your typical moment of cutesy reflexiveness seen in such shows in the forms of one-off jokes as in Community. It changes how we continue to watch the film and is an added layer that fits in with the themes of excess and self-indulgence, this time in an artistic sense. The main narrative of Matsumoto’s film is now that of a retiring director, and the producers who are dumbfounded at the content of his last film.
When you look at the form of the film within the film, it’s clear that Matsumoto has considered this added narrative layer. The film starts out a family melodrama, despite its protagonist’s masochism. The camerawork is distant, we see the father, his son, and his step-father all sitting at a table eating a birthday cake in one shot with no cuts. The score, and the not so strong acting and dialogue evoke these sort of early melodramas of Japanese cinema. Later on the film changes gears into sort-of a spy thriller, with ninja-like dominatrices, guns, and car chases. The film also has elements of music video, documentary, and prosthetic monster film. The director is 100 years old so he must have lived through all these movements and film styles hence their inclusion in his final artistic statement.
Ultimately the film is about transcendence. Nao Omori’s Katayama seeks transcendence through humiliation and the director finds the same transcendence through following and allowing each and every artistic whim he has. Through his years as a director he has figured out how to answer the producer’s questions and how to ensure the more bizzare aspects of his film will be safe from the studio’s cutters. The self-indulgence of the film is justified considering all the time spent creating for others. At a certain age, maybe not when you have a child and a wife in a coma, it’s okay to do something entirely for one’s self. 100 seems to be that age.
Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.