Ryusuke Hamaguchi shows up once again, after Drive My Car, with the romantic anthology film Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. A collection of 3 separate stories centring around women and their love lives.
The first section: Magic (or Something Less Assuring)
Two best friends, Tsugami and Meiko, are chatting away in the back of a taxi about Tsugami’s latest love interest. There is nothing more to it than this but this opening sequence is superb as they talk with abandon and are carefree about expressing themselves. You get a real sense about with woman and her approach to love and life from this sequence and the dialogue is wonderful and flows really nicely between the two. As the story of the date moves on, Meiko realises from the description that the man is known to her and this brings its own tension to proceedings.
The second section is the jewel of this film for me: Door Wide Open
French Professor Segawa is ultra careful with his students, always ensuring that his door is open so that he isn’t seen to be hiding anything. Sasaki, a student who has transgressed and suffered at the Professors hands later plots to humble the Professor with his girlfriend, Nao, as the missing piece.
As Nao enters the Professor’s room she tries to close the door to initiate the seduction but is rebuffed by the reopening of the portal. However, the scene still progresses and it is utterly superb. It is filled with tension, anticipation and eroticism and is played wonderfully by the two leads.
When this sequence is over we advance forward 5 years and, while it doesn’t quite end as well as the rest of this section, it is wonderfully put together.
The third and final section felt like the weakest of the three: Once Again
Natsuko’s high school reunion leads to a case of mistaken identity, which while unfortunate does lead to something more than expected.
This section felt like it didn’t have a clear goal or structure. The performances didn’t feel as authentic as the rest and I wasn’t anywhere near as engaged with this story as in the previous segments. The dialogue is really good though but it didn’t really elicit the emotional response of sections one and two. And I was left a little nonplussed at the ending which didn’t quite match the rest of the segment.
The three sections all follow a vague link in unrequited or unfulfilled love: losing the love of your life to someone else; a moment of connection that causes disruption; and a relationship that pretends to be the one that never quite was what it was hoped it could be. However, the beauty in this film is the interpersonal relationships and interplay between the characters.
This film is at times beautiful and at times lacking an emotional connection to take it that step further. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is a solid collection of stories that will impact different people in different ways. Almost everyone will have experienced some heartbreak or some troubles over their love life and the circumstances shown here will no doubt chime with many across the three sections.