Movie Reviews, Most Unique of Cinetopia: R100 + The Congress

The two weirdest most unique films I saw at the Cinetopia Film Festival were definitely R100 and The Congress.

R100 showed at the State Theater at 11:30 p.m., and it's the type of movie that probably should be watched late: it's bizarre yet also interesting. I didn't know what the title meant until recently, when I read this review: apparently the Japanese rating system for movies has such like R-15 and R-18 (like our PG-13 and R, I'm assuming), so R-100 is suggesting that it's far beyond these in terms of content.

Official synopsis:
Any way you look at it, Takafumi’s life is boring. He gets up, makes his son breakfast, sells upholstery downtown, stops by the hospital to see his comatose wife, and picks up dinner on the way home. He needs… adrenaline. When he stumbles upon a mysterious club with the word “Bondage” inscribed on the front door, it seems his routine may change. Before Takafumi signs away, the administrator gives him a glimpse of what’s to come: dozens of breathtaking “Queens” clad in black latex, all waiting to expand his horizons. But once the Queens start infusing themselves into Takafumi’s daily life, their sadistic reign endangers his job, his wife, and even his son. Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto’s wonderfully perverse R100 is the most twisted rom-com fun that’s been whipped up in years. By the time it hits its outrageous ending, you’ll be on your knees begging for more.

This movie was super strange, but it was definitely one of the more interesting ones at the fest. Takefumi decides he needs more excitement in his life, so he hires these dominatrix ninjas of sorts - the "Queens" - who show up unexpectedly, even at his work. He later realizes this was maybe not a smart decision, and he tries to get out of the contract, which angers the Queens and their lead boss, as well.

My favorite part about this movie was a 4th wall-esque thing it had going on - the writers/creaters of the film had scenes in it, where they didn't talk to the camera, but amongst themselves, and within these scenes they alluded to how absurd the film was. I love it when a campy/crazy film doesn't take itself too seriously, and that is the case with R100. I ended up laughing a lot throughout the movie, as well, and it surpassed my expectations, although I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting in to when I first saw it.

According to IMDb, R100 will be playing at various U.S. film festivals: the New York Asian Film Festival on July 2nd and Rooftop Films Summer Series (also in NYC) on August 1st. It will have a wide release in the U.S. on December 12th, according to this site.

R100 has a runtime of 100 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

The other movie from the festival that still sticks in my mind, a week later, now, is The Congress. Robin Wright plays herself in the film, but the two who play her children are actors (Kodi Smit-McPhee, who I should have recognized, and Sami Gayle). I tried explaining the premise of the film to a coworker the other day, with not much luck, because that's how unique and strange it is.

Official synopsis:
The Congress is set in an alternate reality that reinvents itself at every turn. Actress Robin Wright is about to sell her body to Hollywood mega-studio Miramount, who will scan every inch of her and digitally control her image. The studio can now cast her in any role they’d like: Oscar-bait, sci-fi movies, even pornography. While the digitized Robin is out earning the studio massive profits, a new technology emerges whereby people can become other people through an advanced chemical form of virtual reality. Suddenly, Robin finds herself in a surreal animated world full of magical wonder and not-so-earthly delights. But as she falls further down the virtual rabbit hole, she also fades from the ones who love her most. Part live action and part spectacular animation, The Congress is an ambitious sci-fi allegory from the mind of Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir). With Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, Paul Giamatti, and Danny Huston.

As you can see in the above picture, about half of the film is animated - that's Robin Wright in the picture - and half is live-action. The film starts off with Miramount (similar to Paramount in name, it seems) offering to "buy" Robin, for the most part: they will digitally scan her and then can "cast" her in any film they want. They will pay her a one-time fee for this and then she can never act again, not under any circumstances: not even singing in a public place. Robin initially refuses, but her son Aaron is very sick - his eyes and hearing are failing - and she later accepts the offer.

Twenty years later, she's invited to a congress celebrating Miramount's acheivements, and is told it's an "animation only" zone; she sniffs a potion of sorts that she's given, and poof, she is suddenly animated.

The Congress is the weirdest movie I've seen in a while, but it's also very imaginative. It's probably the film I've thought the most about since the festival ended, which definitely says something about it. Originally I had heard that it was still looking for distribution, but a tentative U.S. release date of August 29th has been announced, although IMDb pegs it at July 24th as "internet" (perhaps a digital download?) and August 29th as "limited release."

The Congress has a runtime of 122 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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