The Invention of Dr. NakaMats (Director: Kaspar Astrup Schröder): A singularly unsettling experience, watching The Invention of Dr. NakaMats is like being dropped down a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland and wondering if what you’re seeing with your eyes is real or imagined. Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, or Dr. NakaMats as he calls himself, is a Japanese inventor who claims to hold more than 3,000 patents on everything from the floppy disk to karaoke. Like a cross between Willy Wonka and the Reverend Moon, he is charismatic and charming one minute, and creepily strange the next. The film follows him in the days before his 80th birthday in 2008, preparing for a party where he will announce his latest invention.
Dr. NakaMats is tireless at everything (and claims to sleep no more than 4 hours a night), but most of all he’s a tireless self-promoter. He can also be incredibly vain. Always nattily dressed, he receives visitors in his office like supplicants, dispensing advice to all. I felt particularly sorry for the hotel employee who had to break the news that they couldn’t permanently rename one of their banquet rooms the NakaMats Room on the occasion of his birthday party being held there.
The party itself is a hit, with a huge roomful of his admirers enjoying themselves immensely. Beforehand, Dr. NakaMats introduces the assembled press to his new invention, the B-Bust, a revolutionary kind of brassiere. But instead of showing them the product, he simply presents a busty woman wearing a dress. When asked if they can see the bra, he gives them a confusing non-answer and retreats to his birthday gathering.
Throughout the film’s brisk sub-60 minute running time, the good doctor shows off more of his inventions, including engines that run on water and heat, his specially formulated Brain Drink, and a mysterious libido-enhancing elixir for women called Love Jet. About Love Jet, he claims. “I’ve tested more than 10,000 women. Of course, I’m not doing the sex. I’m checking meters.” None of the inventions are examined in great detail, and I began to get the distinct impression that there is something of the con man about Dr. NakaMats. While the audience laughed (including me), there is definitely something very weird going on here.
Before I’d seen the film, I’d seen Dr. NakaMats himself at several festival events, posing for pictures and handing out his “lucky business card” to any and all who asked. What I began to notice more and more was the sullen presence of his silent and longsuffering wife. Whether he’s a genius, a madman or a charlatan, it’s clear that an hour in his presence is amusing, but a lifetime might be something else entirely.
Here is the Q&A with producer Mette Heide and Dr. NakaMats himself from after the screening, conducted by Hot Docs Programming Manager Karina Rotenstein: