Sep 262023

R100 is a 2013 Japanese absurdist comedy. A depressed man enters a contract to be assaulted by dominatrixes in random places at random times.

It starts off relatively realistically. Katayama is a depressed furniture salesman dealing with raising his young son while his wife has been in a coma for years. He visits a company known only as “Bondage”. The host has him sit on a merry-go-round and view dominatrixes. The offer is a one-year contract during which different dominatrixes will assault him unpredictably. Katayama agrees.

As Katayama proceeds through his day to day life, every so often one of the Bondage dominatrixes shows up. One smashes his restaurant orders before he has to eat it, another drags him into a public fountain and nearly drowns him. These scenes climax in a peculiar sound effect and visual distortion, indicating he is experiencing euphoria.

As the scenes become increasingly violent and bizarre, the viewer has to wonder about the “reality” of this. In the film, is this actually happening, or are these Katayama’s intrusive fantasies that begin to interfere with his life, or is he outright delusional and none of this is really happening?

It gets even more confusing when the film itself stops and we see a group of film producers talking at a test screening of R100. This is the last film of a 100-year-old director, and the producers are as baffled as we are. The director claims that it will only make sense to people who are 100 years of age or older, thus it should be rated “R100”.

Katayama spirals into paranoia. The dominatrixes appear in increasingly improbable places. A mysterious man, claiming to be a government agent, shows up and advises Katayama to stop. Katayama tries to go to the police, but they say they can do nothing.

A pair of dommes, the “Queen of Voices” and the “Queen of Saliva”, attack Katayama in his home. Voices imitates the voices of other people while Katayama is blindfolded, while Saliva spits on him. Voices leaves, and Saliva trips over the stairs and accidentally kills herself. Katayama frees himself, sees what happened and goes on the run with his son.

The Bondage organization, which has a place called “The Water Lounge” with a swimming pool, learns what has happened, and vows vengeance. Even worse, the CEO of Bondage is flying in from Singapore.

Katayama is trapped in a nightmare of equal parts shame, masochism and paranoia. He flees to his father-in-law’s house, only to find the father has been literally eaten by “the Queen of Gobbling”. An army of women in catsuits, led by the CEO, a blonde giantess, surrounds the house. Katayama happens to find a suitcase full of grenades, which he uses to blow up the marching dominatrixes.

Finally, the CEO herself grabs Katayama and drags him into a shed. The remaining dominatrixes gather around and witness multiple instances of Katayama’s “euphoria” sound and visual effect, which turns out to be the notes of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.

Trying to make any rational sense of R100 is probably pointless. It’s a non-rational masochistic fantasy on film, as hinted by the extra-diegetic scenes of the producers trying to understand it. It’s possible that even the early parts of the film, like Katayama’s family drama, exist solely to accentuate his humiliation, to give him something to feel shame about.

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