Director: Hitoshi Matsumoto
Cast: Hitoshi Matsumoto, David Quintero, Luis Accinelli
Watch Symbol online in the UK: Not available on UK VOD
TV comedian turned director Hitoshi Matsumoto is a man with a taste for bending genre. His films might involve samurai, kaiju, or men waking up in white rooms wearing yellow polka dot pyjamas. Symbol falls into the latter category.
Finding himself in a bright empty chamber, the trapped man soon discovers a bump on the wall. He presses it, causing a choir of heavenly angels to appear from the paintwork. The cherubs melt back into the masonry, leaving their members proudly on display.
This is where it gets weird. Every time the man flicks one of these willies (insert heavenly squeal of pleasure), a part of the wall opens, throwing out a random object. Deck chairs, graphic novels, sashimi, a running black man – everything you need to survive in a gallery of genitals. Except for Soy Sauce. And maybe a way out.
Matsumoto’s performance as the bemused prisoner is as charismatic as they come. Shouting at the walls and swinging on ropes with an eager truckload of ham, he lives up to his career as a comedian. Behind the camera, too, Hitoshi succeeds, keeping the visual side of things interesting and varied (although the comic book skits soon start to wear thin).
The confusing part – dongs aside – comes from a second storyline set in Mexico. Costumed wrestler Escargot Man (failed hero of the town’s local children) is getting ready to leave the family home and head to his latest match. Complete with nuns, colourful masks and Spanish-speaking actors, Matusmoto tries to link the two parts together with a transcendent revelation come the climax. But while the connection between the willies and the universe makes for a stunning montage, Hitoshi could have lost the Mexican sub-plot altogether and kept things more fascinating. As it is, Symbol is a funny and compelling piece of Japanese cinema, but that intrigue essentially boils down to one long willy flicking marathon. Which doesn’t always grab you.