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Montreal Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 93 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese/spanish/english/russian with English subtitles
Official Selection, Hong Kong International Film Festival 2010
Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2009
Official Selection, Pusan International Film Festival 2009



Screening Times

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“Matsumoto sets out to amuse, bamboozle and enlighten... an uproarious delight” — Russell Edwards, VARIETY

“For those who can appreciate two kinds of humor — expressly physical and mystically cerebral — in one single film” — Maggie Lee, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Exceeded my expectations on every possible level... an awe-inspiring work of art that had me grinning for its entire running time” — Simon Barrett, BLOODY DISGUSTING


Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Screenplay: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu
Cast: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Adriana Fricke, Lillian Tapia, David Quintero, Luis Acchinelli
Producers: Akihiko Okamoto
Print Source: U-Media

Screens with...

Danse macabre   

Danse macabre

2009 | 9 min



In a small Mexican town, a masked wrestler called Escargotman silently prepares for the most important fight of his career. Those close to him harbour little hope for his victory. He seems to be headed for a disastrous loss. At the same moment, in some undisclosed location, a Japanese man clad in gaudy pajamas wakes up in a sealed room with nothing but blank white walls. Careful closer inspection of the emptiness around him reveals a small protuberance on one wall, resembling—ahem—male genitalia. When he dares to poke it gently, it honks, triggering a disturbing apparition that leaves behind a wide array of little wieners throughout the room. Each time he pokes one, an object—sometimes useful, sometimes less so—is dropped into the room. The life of this prisoner in pajamas and that of Escargotman are on a collision course, but don’t even bother trying to guess how. You’re in Hitoshi Matsumoto’s world now.

Strap yourself in for a voyage deep into the tangled id and amazing imagination of Hitoshi Matsumoto, the Japanese wizard of absurdist humour. After knocking us all flatter than post-Godzilla Tokyo with DAINIPPONJIN, his twisted homage to kaiju (giant monster) movies, he returns to escalate the freak-out factor with this dose of screwball existentialism. SYMBOL deploys a grab-bag of strange yet resonant images to reflect on how our tiniest gestures can have such far-reaching consequences. But Matsumoto’s version of chaos theory could never stoop to boring us with a logical explanation of cause and effect, oh no. His is a loopy, ludicrous universe peopled by an oddball poking little penises to procure assorted items, a pugnacious nun in Dirty Harry shades, a wild lucha libre match, a strange nod to the rock band Kiss and so much more. The film jumps between a sealed-off and sterile environment recalling 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the dry, dusty backroads and vibrant wrestling arena of Mexico. In the midst of this masterfully manipulated madness, Matsumoto, the main actor, delivers an outstanding performance combining Buster Keaton’s physical gags and George Carlin’s knack for cracking a room up by doing nothing at all. Matsumoto was nominated for an Asian Film Award for his performance, as was his visual effects creator, Hiroyuki Seshita. SYMBOL is the cinematic oddity of the year, a film that would leave you scratching your head if you hadn’t laughed it right off.

—Nicolas Archambault (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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