Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy


Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy
"The Japanese filmmaker guides his actors as if they were just learning emotions, creating an impression of awkwardness." | Photo: 2021 Neopa/Fictive

Once in a while there is a movie which bears striking resemblance to the achievements of another filmmaker, but which is more than a creative copy of the master's style - bringing with it a fresh look, and even, risking a controversial opinion, a correction. Such is Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose narrative and melancholic-ironic atmosphere it is tempting to compare to the achievements of the award-winning festival favourite, Hong Sang-soo - who also has a film in Competition at this year's Berlin Film Festival, where Hamaguchi went on to win the Grand Jury Silver Bear.

The Japanese director divides his work into three sections: Magic (Or Something Less Assuring), Door Wide Open and Once Again. Although the stories are completely different, the excellent ability to observe social behaviour, characteristic not only of conservative Japanese society, but also of other Asian countries, binds them together well. Hamaguchi uses the seemingly light narrative, of the kind familiar from Sang-soo movies. It allows the conversations to take place at their own pace, sometimes rubbing against the absurd, boldly taking up sensitive topics for contemporary Japanese society: sexuality, love and the presence of emotions in a relationship.

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But where Sang-soo intoxicates melancholy with alcohol, once again self-ironically referring to his own work, Hamaguchi uses irony as the key to understanding the sources of social inhibitions: the tension resulting from the presence of other people and their ability to evaluate the hero's actions. In short, alienation, loneliness resulting from culture’s dictations, commandments and limitations.

The filmmaker guides his actors as if they were just learning emotions, creating an impression of awkwardness. Duets are distinctive here, such as Meiko (Kotone Furukawa) and Tsugumi (Hyunri) from the first segment, Magic (Or Something Less Assuring). In this one short story, Hamaguchi manages to show the complexity of changing social behaviours – although the two friends have a seemingly open relationship, there are many omissions, uncertainties and a timidity between them, which further complicates their mutual dependencies when a third person, Kazuaki (Ayumu Nakajima), appears.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy presents itself as a brilliant, serious... and sober work. Hamaguchi corresponds with the Korean master, on the basis of a similar style, creating something fresh and original, and – above all – sociologically sharp.

Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2021
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An unexpected love triangle, a failed honey trap and an encounter that results from a misunderstanding are the three episodes, told in three movements to depict three female characters and trace the trajectories between their choices and regrets.
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Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writer: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Starring: Kotone Furukawa, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Fusako Urabe

Year: 2021

Runtime: 121 minutes

Country: Japan

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