Drive My Automotive, written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, is the stealth awards powerhouse of the 12 months, an uncommon berth for an extended, quiet Japanese drama however actually a deserving one. However when you have been standing in line or sitting at a bar throughout a fall movie competition in 2021, you might need discovered your self in an uncommon dialog: Which Hamaguchi movie did you like?
Not which of Hamaguchi’s movies — the director has made many celebrated ones, typically very lengthy (2015’s Comfortable Hour runs over 5 hours) — however which of his movies that was at present making the rounds, as a result of there have been two. Drive My Automotive premiered in July at Cannes, starting its lengthy highway to the Oscars. However months earlier, in the course of the a lot wintrier (and principally distant) Berlin Movie Competition, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy had nabbed the Silver Bear, the competition’s second-place award, and had been winding its method around the globe ever since.
They’re each nice, however on stability, I take pleasure in watching Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy a hair extra. It clocks in at two hours to Drive My Automotive’s three, which doesn’t damage. However I additionally love how, structurally and thematically, it encourages the viewers to lean in and pay attention, to attach the dots themselves — and the way it exhibits the colourful prospects within the principally ignored type of the quick movie.
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is, in actual fact, three quick movies that play one after one other. They’re not linked by characters, settings, or plots. As a substitute, the hyperlink is within the title. All three movies discover the unusual surprises and probability encounters that may transform us, the startling position of pure luck in our lives. Spin the wheel. See what occurs.
The primary movie, “Magic (or One thing Much less Assuring),” facilities on Meiko (Kotone Furukawa), a mannequin who shares a cab again from a shoot together with her good friend Tsugumi (Hyunri). Tsugumi met a brand new man lately, and he or she excitedly tells Meiko all about their sudden first date. Meiko listens placidly and with curiosity, however after she drops Tsugumi off, she heads straight for a shocking confrontation at a downtown workplace. An open-ended story, we’re left questioning what’s actually taking place right here and what Meiko is planning for her future.
“Door Broad Open” — the second movie, and the longest — opens with a college class interrupted by the voice of a determined scholar begging a professor to avoid wasting his grade. That professor, Segawa (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), refuses. Someday later, Segawa wins a prize, and two of his college students watch on TV after a liaison. They’re Nao (Katsuki Mori), a married mom of a toddler, and her youthful boyfriend Sasaki (Shouma Kai), the scholar Segawa refused. Sasaki convinces Nao to behave as a honeypot lure and take his revenge on Segawa by proxy, however issues don’t work out as deliberate.
The ultimate section, “As soon as Once more,” is ostensibly set in a really close to future (or maybe alternate current), after some sort of virus uncovered the world’s electronic mail and messaging information to everybody. Now, telegrams and snail mail are how individuals talk. However that sci-fi setup recedes into the background of the story, wherein Natsuko (Fusako Urabe), who was a little bit of a loner in highschool, travels to her highschool reunion hoping to see an previous flame. The try fails, however the subsequent day she spots her by probability on a set of escalators. The girl (Aoba Kawai) invitations Natsuko to her home for tea, however all isn’t because it appears.
In all three tales, Hamaguchi is spinning an internet of uncertainty for his characters and for his viewers. The ladies on the middle of every story really feel misplaced, alienated from their households and needs and the individuals round them. Meiko retains a secret from Tsugumi, however she’s additionally aching for a love she as soon as had and rejected. Nao has tried each life path obtainable to her and located methods to reside with out dedication, however an encounter with a person who is aware of who he’s undoes her. And Natsuko, attempting to find the one happiness she’s ever recognized within the midst of a depressing life, is pushed by destiny into feeling feelings she isn’t positive the way to course of.
Hamaguchi’s movies typically characteristic characters locked into lengthy, shocking conversations, the place motivations and emotions lie buried beneath placid surfaces. However listening to them, we’re saved guessing, questioning what’s actually happening of their hearts. Then their tales take sudden left turns, and the end result, for these of us paying consideration, is the catharsis that comes with a great story.
I’ve stated that I like Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy a bit of greater than Drive My Automotive. On repeat watchings, although, I’ve come to imagine that they’re each good in their very own method, exhibiting Hamaguchi’s unusually deft contact with prolonged tales in addition to shorter ones. For many who haven’t but watched Drive My Automotive, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy acts like an accessible introduction to a grasp’s work. However even you probably have seen the longer movie — or when you simply wish to dive into three engrossing tales that go away you wanting extra — Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is an excellent, lovely, misleading meditation on the forces that transfer us all.
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is out there to lease or buy on digital platforms. For extra suggestions from the world of tradition, try the One Good Factor archives.