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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
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 - 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 an award-winning festival favourite, Korean Hong Sang-soo.
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 which 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. But where Sang-soo intoxicates melancholy with alcohol, 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.
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. 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 uncertainties and a timidity between them, which further complicates their mutual dependencies when Kazuaki (Ayumu Nakajima), appears. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy presents itself as a brilliant, serious... and sober work. Hamaguchi corresponds with the Korean master, creating something fresh, original and sociologically sharp.