People who follow Japanese television know that entertainment shows are quite often presented by a comedian flanked with a cute girl. While there is an abundance of comedians on the small screen, there are certain comedians that remain popular over the years. One such comedian is Hitoshi Matsumoto, who besides his regular work for the small screen also crafted some movies for the big screen. R100 is his fourth feature length film.
One day, ordinary salesman Takafumi Katayama (Nao Omori) visits a mysterious gentlemen club called ‘Bondage’ to sign a non-cancelable one-year contract with them. During this year, he will be publicly subjected to humiliations by a variety of dominatrixes, each with their own specialty. Whenever such domineering attack happens, Katayama must remain submissive. Then, one night, during a surprise BSDM-play, one dominatrix dies by accident, but the club accuses him of murder.
Why does Katayama sign a contract with the club, a club promising to turn the experience of suffering/pain, administered by dominatrixes, into a joyous ecstatic affair? In our view, Katayama signs the contract only because of the tantalizing promise of attaining ‘joy’. Katayama willingly becomes a captive by the club’s promise, because his life, as a businessman and as father, is devoid of any kind of true satisfaction. In other words, he latches on the extra-ordinary – the BDSM – in an attempt to (re-)animate his ordinary and dull life.
What makes the acts of humiliation really humiliating is the fact that the acts often take place in public. As a result, the humiliation becomes public as well. Takayama’s humiliation is, in a way, put on display for the (eye of the) Other, who does not fail to register it. The Other is made present by the presence of others or the possibility of their presence (Psycho-note 1).
Early in the narrative, when Takayama gets humiliated in the sushi-restaurant, the Other is supported by the presence of other customers and the staff. While Katayama might not register their reactions, their presence and their reactions transforms the atmosphere, indicating the Other as present. This presence, by virtue of its subtle oppressive nature, is humiliating as such and empowers the humiliation inherent to the specific relational act, even when, later, these acts take place in less public places.
That the various acts of public humiliation (as registered by the Other) lead to an addictive kind of enjoyment and succeed in re-animating Katayama’s life is made abundantly clear. Not only do these acts culminate in an injection of enjoyment – Katayama’s eyes turning black and his mouth forming a smile of satisfaction, he also starts functioning better at his work.
The acts of humiliation only become problematic for Katayama when the presence of the Other becomes too present. While Katayama could cope with the presence of the Other by ensuring that the acts took place in more anonymous public spaces – spaces cleanly separated from the areas of his daily life, the sudden appearance of a dominatrix at his work destroys this carefully organized separation completely and transforms the eye of the Other in a persecutory presence.
The eye of the Other becomes threatening due to two reasons. First, the destruction of Katayama’s carefully controlled separation between BDSM and his daily life deprives him from the control he had over the when and where of the acts of humiliation and endangers those he holds dear. Nevertheless, this loss of control, as shown in the narrative, forms no obstacle for attaining pleasure. And Secondly, because the others supporting this perceiving Other are not anonymous anymore, but people who know him – i.e. his-co-workers and family-members.
In other words, the sudden unpredictability of the acts and the very possibility of being humiliated in front of people who know him, turns the Other, both as instance registering each act of humiliation as well as the site from where each BDSM-act originates, into a persecutory presence (Narra-note 1). And while this persecutory presence of the Other is, at first, a subjective experience – an experience he wants to escape, the accident turns the Other, i.e. the others of the club who want to take revenge, into a real persecutory instance.
With R100, Matsumoto delivers a very stylish and, at times, noirish cinematographical composition. The visual flair of the dynamic composition is a result of the interaction between two different elements, the colour-scheme, i.e. the washed-out sepia-colours, and the shot-composition. The pleasing stylishness of the shot-compositions is, in fixed shots as well as in fluid dynamic shots, function of the thoughtful geometrical play.
An aspect that is less apparent in the overall cinematographical composition is Matsumoto’s sporadic use of subtle shaky framing. Even though the use of shakiness remains subtle, it is not without effect. What this shakiness, acting as a subtle marker of realism, results in is, in fact, nothing other than the enhancement of the comical absurdity of the narrative. Within the stylish composition, these subtle excursions of realism emphasize the very absurdity of what befalls our main character: Takafumi Katayama.
While Matsumoto’s narrative playfully pretends to be a ‘serious’ narrative at first – exploring the link between the Other and humiliation, all seriousness is thrown out when one of the dominatrixes dies. This sudden descend into visual and narrative absurdity works well and ensures that R100 can become a truly enjoyable comical experience (Narra-note 2). Recommended for those who need, from time to time, a dose of Japanese comical absurdity.
Psycho-note 1: Even when people do not register the act as such, the very fact that others are present and are fully able to register it is enough for the atmosphere to turn into the equivalent of the Other’s presence.
And even when people are not present, the very possibility of people being present and register the act is also ensures that the atmosphere turns into the equivalent of the Other’s presence.
Narra-note 1: The specialty of the Voice Queen is mimicking the voices of the victim’s significant others and realizing the fantasy of being humiliated by these significant others.
Narra-note 2: While the absurdities and impossibilities are sensible for any spectator, these absurd elements are emphasized to great comical effect in the narrative’s sub-plot, where a group of people are commenting on the very same film we as spectator are watching.
Cine-note 1: In his stylish composition, Matsumoto also utilizes cinematographical techniques, like jump-cuts, shot-overlays, and fast-forwards.