“Weird teacher” is almost becoming a genre now. Even so, the teacher at the center of Masanori Tominaga’s Rolling may give them all a run for their money (well, for about five yards before having some kind of bizarre accident, anyway). Gondo is a feckless middle-aged man who was fired from his teaching position ten years previously after having been caught secretly filming the girls’ changing rooms. Now he’s back in his old stalking ground after having pulled off an improbable white knight routine by rescuing the young and pretty Mihara from a bad boyfriend in Tokyo. However, his former students have not forgotten him or his pervy ways! It’s not long before the entire town of twenty somethings are on Gondo’s case hoping for a little vengeance for their teenage betrayal.
However, Gondo’s fortunes improve slightly when it’s discovered that some of his secret recordings feature some rather salacious goings-on starring a former classmate whose TV career is just about to kick off. Smelling money in the air, Gondo is suddenly everyone’s best friend again. Gondo is... still Gondo though, so as you may expect this state of affairs will not last. He’s even lost Mihara to a former student of his, one he even quite likes too.
Despite his failings and protestations to the contrary, what Gondo ultimately remains is a teacher. Yes he’s made some mistakes (understatement of the century), and he’s actually quite unpleasant in a lot of ways but somehow he still wants to protect this ragtag bag of not quite young people that he previously harmed. Coming to the realisation that his actions not only resulted in revulsion and a violation of trust but also had a disruptive effect on the educational progress of his students simply resulting from his abrupt dismissal, Gondo does at least want to make amends (in his own way).
However, Gondo’s just the kind of guy things never work out for. “All my students are idiots” he proclaims at one point and he’s not altogether wrong. Attempting to hatch a blackmail plot with a very strange group of a idol managers-cum-gangsters and an ex-policeman, the gang get themselves into a whole world of trouble which is only exacerbated when the almost famous subject of the video comes forward and makes a very surprising request of her old flame and Gondo’s kindly love rival Kanichi.
Darkly comic, Rolling has the air of a film noir B movie with its ever present voice-over and thriller trappings including secret video taping, a blackmail plot and trio of business-like gangsters. It is though, also firmly grounded in the now despite its often surreal humour. Also branded an “erotic comedy”, Rolling is fairly high on sexual content adding to its generally sleazy feeling. It may well go down as a cult hit simply for the phrase “I’m going to make a milkshake out of your filthy boob juice”, which gives you some indication as to the tone.
Far from perfect but oddly touching and sometimes baffling too, Rolling is another strange and surreal adventure from Tominaga. Its slightly vulgar tone may put off some, but by and large it gets away with it through sheer cheekiness and absurd humour. Gondo is a dreadful person almost all of the time, selfish and needy yet he also seems to have this yearning for redemption which makes him seem not so bad really, as does the fact that most of his former students have not turned out all that well - even the “hero” Kanichi has his problems. For those that can accept its oddly surreal tone and decidedly old-fashioned gender politics, Rolling is a rewarding and delightfully absurd film that does also manage to pack in a decent (if subtle) amount of social commentary.
Rolling was screened at the 23rd Raindance Film Festival in 2015.