Life can be merciless, full of unpredictable twist and turns, as well as tragedy and sudden events that can turn anyone upside down. However, to be honest, life can also be full of sweet irony and beautifully awkward moments that actually make it worth living, and that’s coming from me, a very pessimistic (and extremely awkward) person. But enough about that, because Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy happens to be a wonderful and highly gorgeous work of art, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who is perhaps the modern-day Yasujiro Ozu.
The film consists of three stories about people bound by love, grief, betrayal, memory, and coincidence. The first story tells a weird love triangle between a model, her best friend/co-photographer, and the new man in the friend’s life, one who happens to be the model’s ex-boyfriend. The second story centers on the love affair between a older student and a young man (also a student). Both of their lives have been changed by a morose professor; she buys and becomes obsessed with his new book, while the young man’s career was ruined by the professor. To get revenge, he has her to do a ‘honey trap’, which means to seduce him and ruin his life in return. The third and final story has a lesbian who thinks that she has reunited with an old flame, only to discover that it is the wrong woman, who suddenly invites her to her home.
I am absolutely in love with this film! Every character is relatable in all degrees. They’re each connected by fate. They encounter moments that can change their lives, and possibly lead them to their undoing. Hamaguchi understands them, while giving them moving (and at times explicit) dialogue to guide them through the challenges that they all have to face or triumph over. It also closes with a poignant final shot with the two women in the third story hugging after they both remember a woman from the past. These and other scenes elevate this film and make it a truly original piece of humanist filmmaking, the type of filmmaking that needs to exist more often.
The special features of Film Movement’s Blu-ray release include an interview with Hamaguchi, and The Chicken, a short film by Neo Sora, about a young Japanese immigrant living in New York, who faces a dilemma where he can’t bring himself to kill a chicken he’s brought home for dinner. There are also trailers for the main film, as well as ones for After the Storm, Oh Lucy, and The Real Thing.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with Hamaguchi or his work, but after seeing Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, I am completely won over. I need more of this man, his hearty observation of life and his films in my own life. Now I really need to see Drive My Car.