Famed inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu is quick to tell you that he holds the all-time record for individual patents—over 3,000, easily clearing Edison’s 1,093—and that he counts the floppy disk, digital display, spring-supported running shoe, and an aphrodisiac called Love Jet among his many necessary contributions to global society. Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s follow-along documentary offers a tour of this great thinker’s current life and personal views on legacy and invention. He reaches his 80th birthday party along the way. No big deal. Dr. Nakamats, as he is known, has an exercise and one-meal-a-day eating regimen that he says will carry him to an easy 144 years. Dorian Gray has nothing on this guy.
Lacking any device to drive the story forward, The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is ultimately a 57-minute character study built on great on-screen title work and some very entertaining eccentricities. But when a prima donna is so blatantly unapologetic, who needs a story? Dr. Nakamats comes up with his new ideas by holding his breath underwater, for example, because invention only comes when balanced with death—to say nothing of the fact that he invented an underwater notepad to facilitate these full-immersion eurekas. He manages his camera collecting hobby by smelling—yes, smelling—the product. Bad or no smell, bad camera. Don’t forget the multitude of things he’s happy to mention as points of pride: his daughter’s dinnerware business, his status among the world’s top-12 most expensive lecturers (despite the fact that his lectures have a great deal more song than organizers would probably like), the Newsweek spread that placed him among the top six inventors of all time, his first invention (a soy sauce delivery system), that his house now sits on Dr. Nakamats Square at the corner of Dr. Nakamats Street and Dr. Nakamats Ave., that his acceptance speech for the jokey Ig Noble Prize was only seven words long, and so on.
In passing moments, you are tempted to think he must be playing up for the camera. Truth can be far more engaging than fiction, as proved in one of the most unrelenting and delightful hours you can spend in front of a movie screen. Now, where’s my water-powered pedi-cab?
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival runs from April 8 to 11.