Published Sep 23, 2009Trying to describe Hitoshi Matsumoto's Symbol is a difficult task, as any attempt to make coherent sense of the enigmatic and bizarre semi-narrative will fail to do justice to the on-screen lunacy. Matsumoto's creation constantly straddles the line between absurdist comedy and art film, though the fact that it maintains a balance between the two and never takes itself seriously enough to be pretentious is its greatest achievement. Audiences will leave the theatre more amused and perplexed than provoked to deep thought.
The film follows two plots: the tale of a masked Mexican wrestler in the fight of his career and a nondescript Japanese man (Hitoshi Matsumoto) who wakes up in an empty white room and soon discovers that by pressing down on wall-mounted cherubic penises he can call forth a variety of oddball items that may or may not aid his escape.
Matsumoto is well known in Japan for his nonsensical comedy styling but North American audiences will most likely not be familiar with his work, and Symbol isn't a good introduction, as it's a little too strange for its own good.
This is not a film for casual comedy audiences, with the laughs coming between long bouts of impenetrable strangeness, though the fact that it's a subtitled movie with more than a hint of artiness makes it unlikely anyone will accidentally stumble upon this film.
You'll have to purposely seek this one out if you want to see it on this side of the Pacific. If you like unfathomable, unique films with elements of slapstick then Symbol is perfect for you. Everyone else might want to pass. (Yoshimoto Kogyo)