Japanese auteur Ryûsuke Hamaguchi is back with another magnetic piece of slow cinema to show why he’s a superstar in the making, barely a few months since the release of his last film, the Saabs-and-sorrow opus Drive My Car.
Like that mix of Murakami and Chekov, the trio of urban relationship tales that make up Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy concern themselves with the heart. This time, each 30-odd minute section takes the perspective of a different woman, each with a deeper heartache and confusion that steers them in emotionally dangerous directions.
Hamaguchi deftly hooks their stories around showier narrative devices – a love triangle, an attempted honeytrap at Toyko uni (the director’s alma mater) and a case of mistaken identity in a digitally disconnected world (a surprise, and very gentle, dip into the realms of sci-fi) – and all are bewitching in their own way. But the real drama plays out on the faces of his characters, each tussling with the ghosts of their past. If it wasn’t pretentious to do so, you might call it Proustian.
The writer-director’s greatest gift is in wringing intense emotion from each moment, with meticulous blocking and careful camerawork that guides his characters towards – and away from – each other, and the odd sudden zoom that feels like a bomb going off. It’s another intoxicating human drama – the only downside is that each chapter isn’t a book in itself.
In UK cinemas Feb 11.