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Rising Japanese arthouse star Ryusuke Hamaguchi returns to his signature themes in Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy: Odd coincidence, mysterious doubling, and intelligent women compelled by powerful but uncertain feelings.
The film won the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival’s Silver Bear jury prize in February and it debuts in North America on Oct. 15 courtesy of Film Movement, which is giving it a limited theatrical release.
The film is composed of three self-contained narratives, each centering on a contemporary middle-class Japanese woman. They tell stories of a coincidental love triangle, a seduction trap gone awry and a surprise connection that emerges from a misunderstanding. Premises that would appear absurd on paper become absorbingly life-like, existential chamber pieces, thanks to Hamaguchi’s rhythmically pugnacious dialog, and the finely tuned performances from all corners of the small cast.
As of late, Hamaguchi, 42, has been riding high on the international festival circuit. He co-wrote Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurasawa’s period thriller Wife of a Spy, which won the best director award at the 2020 Venice Film Festival; and his latest feature Drive My Car, an adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story, won the best screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. That latest effort, which stars Hidetoshi Nishijima, will get its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival later this month.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s critic summed up Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy as “a charming trio of bittersweet Tokyo stories,” writing that the “intimate snapshots of middle-class angst are unusually humane by the standards of modern cinema.” The film’s three tight casts feature Japanese actors Kotone Furukawa, Ayumu Nakajima, Hyunri, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Katsuki Mori, Shouma Kai, Fusako Urabe and Aoba Kawai.
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