Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
偶然と想像 (Guzen to Sozo)
Japan, 2021, 121’, Japanese
Directed by: Hamaguchi Ryusuke
Script: Hamaguchi Ryusuke
Photography (color): Ioka Yukiko
Editing: Hamaguchi Ryusuke
Production Design: Nunobe Masato
Sound Design: Suzuki Akihiko
Producer: Takata Satoshi
Production Companies: Neopa, Fictive
Cast: Furukawa Kotone, Hyunri, Nakajima Ayumu, Kai Shouma, Shibukawa Kiyohiko, Mori Katsuki, Urabe Fusako, Kawai Aoba
Date of First Release in Territory: TBA
Winner of the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, is a three-part anthology whose stories are linked by themes implied in the title: Each of the three heroines has her life changed by chance and all three segments ask “what if” questions that stimulate the imagination, with one venturing into the realm of sci-fi.
Also, all are permeated with an eroticism at once playful and serious, tied as it is to the protagonists’ emotional cores. And all feature German composer Robert Schumann’s short piece Dreaming (Träumerei), with its sweet simplicity and melancholy longing, evoking in its merry-go-round-like repetitions the “wheel” of the English title.
Scripted by Hamaguchi, the stories thus have a formal unity, while reflecting the unruly nature of life as it is lived, with its coincidences and sudden changes of heart and luck that seem to defy reason. They solidify his reputation as a director of rare talent and ambition, though both qualities were already apparent in his 2015 break-though Happy Hour, a five-hour drama that also experimented with form and narrative, while winning a shelf of awards.
The first segment, “Magic (or Something Less Assuring),” centers on Meiko (Furukawa Kotone), a pixie-ish fashion model who listens, in one long immersive take, as her friend Tsugumi (Hyunri) rapturously describes her recent first date, a meeting of minds and souls that her new guy, Kazuaki, described to her as “the best day of my life.” After parting from Tsugumi, Meiko goes directly to confront Kazuaki (Nakajima Ayumu), who she has not seen since their break up two years ago, after he discovered her cheating. With naked honesty and brazen persistence, Meiko knocks down his defensive wall of anger and pain to get at their bedrock feelings for each other. Poor Tsugumi’s brief moment of magic doesn’t stand a chance – or does it?
In the second segment, “Door Wide Open,” a college boy (Kai Shouma) failed by his stern-faced French professor (Shibukawa Kiyohiko), the winner of a major literary prize, persuades his older married lover Nao (Mori Katsuki) to seduce him and sell the ensuing scandal to the media. But once in the professor’s office, her “honeytrap” scheme starts to unravel, starting with his insistence that she leave the door open. Nonetheless, she breaks down her target’s reserves, though the outcome is not what she planned.
The concluding segment, “Once Again,” unfolds in a near-future in which a computer virus has wiped out the Internet worldwide, forcing a return to phone calls, faxes and letters. Natsuko (Urabe Fusako) goes to her 20th college class reunion in the northern city of Sendai and afterwards, on an escalator near the station, runs into an old classmate (Kawai Aoba) who somehow missed the gathering. Now a housewife, she invites Natsuko to her home but, in the course of renewing their acquaintance, the two women discover that they actually don’t know each other. Even so, they have made a connection – and the housewife, Aya, proposes to play Natsuko’s friend, who became her first lover but left her for a man, a betrayal she never got over. Then, just before they part, Natusko offers to return the favor, acting the role of a high school classmate Aya never forgot.
This fantasy friendship may not have the good fortune to last, but with masks dropped and hearts opened, it shows us how fiction can tell deeper truths than fact and how one kind thought, truly meant, can power us through life, in all its beauty, terror and mystery.
Born in 1978 in Kanagawa, Hamaguchi Ryusuke graduated from theUniversity of Tokyo and studied filmmaking at Tokyo University of the Arts. His graduation film Passion was selected for the 2008 Tokyo Filmex festival. His breakthrough, however, was Happy Hour (2015), a five-hour-plus workshop film that won a shelf-full of awards. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, an anthology film that Hamaguchi also developed in a workshop, won the Grand Jury Prize at Berlin Film Festival 2021. Hamaguchi has another film set for release in 2021: Drive My Car, a drama based on a short story by Murakami Haruki.
2008 – Passion
2015 – Happy Hour
2018 – Asako I & II
2021 – Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
2021 – Drive My Car