Hitoshi Matsumoto  

One-of-a-kind Japanese comedian who is part of a manzai duo that throw fast-paced silly jokes, word games and improvisations at each other. His movies reflect this approach where anything goes and a single idea is taken to extreme and unpredictable absurdities, increasing the ante constantly, causing laugh-out-loud reactions at all of the rapid surprises and silly antics. Matsumoto often starts with a single aspect of Japanese culture and has fun with it, casting unusual faces and placing them in absurd satirical situations, then playing with the rules of the game and bending reality just to find new absurdities, all in a light but manic spirit of fun. Thankfully, he also brings heart to his characters, giving his cartoonish movies some depth. His movies so far are unusually bonkers even by Japanese standards, with the exception of Scabbard Samurai that was just about having fun with an old eccentric samurai given the task to make a young unhappy lord laugh while poking satirical jabs at the dignity of the Samurai genre.

Of Some Interest

Big Man Japan  
Hilarious mockumentary/satire on Japanese monsters and the society that used to love them. Big Man is an X-generation superhero that gets zapped with electricity to swell up and fight huge monsters. Problem is, society is tired of the same old thing and ratings are low, not to mention they all hate him for ruining the environment. He also has an angry ex-wife, and an old senile superhero grandpa in a retirement home whom he needs to take care of. So he lives a depressing life with a dreary, painful job of fighting leftover bizarre monsters, like the Swinging Eyeball monster, a Stink monster who is just a huge old lady-monster with a hygiene problem, and a middle-aged monster that uproots skyscrapers while adjusting his comb-over. The ending features some horribly cheesy superheros in the Japanese bug-eyed robot fashion (with zippers up their backs) who argue over what's good showmanship. Deadpan slow satire with mostly CGI effects.

Matsumoto tackles S&M in his unpredictable, but predictably laugh-out-loud funny and weird approach. An ordinary man with a kid and sick wife joins a mysterious Bondage club that hires an army of dominatrices to surprise their customers day after day with various abuse in the least expected ways and locations. At first, these surprises bring him joy, shown in a weird face-swelling effect. But things start spiraling out of control as the dominatrices start appearing in his home and office, and then turns into a war after an incident involving a 'Saliva Queen'. Matsumoto keeps piling on the absurdities for an increasingly bizarre climax, with a 'Gobbling Queen', a war involving grenades and a massive Western Dominatrix posing as a Japanese warlord, a gender-bending twist and a hilarious link to Beethoven. In addition, this is all filmed as a movie within the movie, and an audience in the movie get to take apart and make fun of the movie while hundred-year-old Japanese men are the only ones who are in on the secret.

What on earth...? I've seen insane movies before but this is just so... alien. Matsumoto's second outing after Big Man Japan starts with two story-lines that eventually are joined, but you will never guess in a million years exactly how. One story is a pedestrian, dull movie about a loser Mexican wrestler on his way to a fight, his son and a cursing nun. The other features a childish man in pyjamas who finds himself in a huge bizarre white room decorated with cherubian penises which, when pressed, cause a wide variety of objects to appear. He goes through three stages: learning, implementation and future, the first of which takes up most of the movie as he tries to figure out how to get out of the room and learns how to play the game, then moves on to real and often serious worldwide repercussions on pressing the penis-buttons, then on to a metaphysical plane. The educational bits are silly, drawn-out, but often hilarious, and the overall interpretation of the movie as a metaphor for life is up to you. Interesting, utterly unique and great fun while its on, a must see, but too schizophrenic and unsatisfying in the end.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents