Sunday, 6 August 2017


Title: Symbol
Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Released: 2009
Starring: Hitoshi Matsumoto, David Quintero, Luis Accinelli, Lilian Tapia, Adriana Fricke, Carlos C. Torres, Ivana Wong, Arkangel De La Muerte, Matcho Panpu, Dick Togo, Salam Diagne

Plot: A Japanese man wakes up in a plain white room covered with phallus like switches which cause random events to happen within the room, while I attempts to find a way out. At the same a Mexican luchadore called Escargot Man prepares for his match despite being concerned that the fact his opponent is much younger than him. At the same time the worlds of these two men are surprisingly connected.

Review: Director Hitoshi Matsumoto might be a director whose work I never intend to seek out and yet our paths for some reason keep crossing, first with the Kaiju parody “Big Man Japan” and later the delightfully perverted “R100”. This time though its a lighter tone that Matsumoto brings to this film of two randomly interconnected tales even though from the start they couldn’t seem to be further part.

Of course surreal worlds have always been one of the trademarks of the comedian turned director and here that’s certainly the case for at least one half of this film as Matsumoto plays the unnamed man who wakes up in the plain room devoid of any colour bar his garish poka-dot pajamas. He has no idea how he got there or why he’s there and certainly by the end of the film we are arguably none the wiser, but it certainly doesn’t stop it being fun to see him being put through the slapstick ringer like your watching “Saw” with jokes.

The main humour of the film comes from him trying to figure out his new surrounding which seem to have designed to purposely test him at all times. The main one of these challenges being the phallus like switches which at one point turn into cherubs which emerge from the wall before disappearing again. Each switch causes something to happen or appear in the room, be it a plate of sushi, a pair of chopsticks or even cause a Zulu warrior to run through the room and this is the challenge which he is faced with let alone the fact that they all look identical.

Just seeing Matsumoto try and find a solution of each problem as he encounters is facinating to watch and his background in comedy only helps further sell even the simplest of jokes such as counsuming a small pile of sushi after resigning himself to the fact that there is no soy sauce only for the next switch he presses to produce the much desired soy sauce. Often these problem solving sections are presented with comic book storyboards while he stares at the viewer just clicking his fingers and the trail and error of the situation is designed so that you want to see him succeed yet at the same time the pay off for each failed plan is so amusing your equally wanting to see him crash and burn aswell.

The second story involving our ageing masked Mexican wrester is a much gentler far and works well running parallel to Matsumoto’s tale. Escargot Man loves his craft as a wrester yet at the same time he’s worried that his age is meaning that he is almost out of the game, especially when faced with competing against a pair of wrestlers half his age. Seeing him permanently wearing his mask regardless of if he is wrestling or not felt like a fun throw back to the likes of “Santo” while at the same time keeping in with the traditions of Lucha Libre. Over the course of his story we see the impact it has on family, including his son who is see defending his father’s in ring ability when two of his classmates make fun of Escargot Man.

Compared to my previous encounters with Matsumoto’s work this one surprisingly didn’t have a darker edge to it, or even go anywhere remotely downbeat in its tone. True instead the finale is a random mish-mash of ideas which includes a Kiss tribute act, ascension and a rather unique ending to Escargot Man’s match. True by the end of the film I might not have been any the wiser as to what I was watching than I was at the start but the ride is so unquestionably fun you really don’t care, while for those willing to take a few risks with their movie watching then this is certainly worth checking out, especially as a more gentle introduction to Matsumoto’s work.

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