Friday, October 15, 2021

Film: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy  (c) Film Movement

Film: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy 
In cinemas 

Premise: The “wheel” of the title spins for three women in three short films. The first, “Magic (or Something Less Assuring)” is about Meiko (Kotone Furukawa), a model who realizes her friend is dating her ex-boyfriend, whom she might not be fully over. “Door Wide Open” takes place at a university where Nao (Katsui Mori) tries to seduce a famous writer for personal and maybe nefarious reasons. “Any Day Now” follows Natsuko (Fusako Urabe) back to her hometown for a high school reunion, but she’s really hoping to run into an ex she hasn’t seen since their break-up. Each story starts with a sort of coincidence (the Japanese movie title is “Coincidence and Imagination”) and ends with the metaphorical wheel spinning to determine if the story will have a happy or sad conclusion. 

My Take: Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi made his name as a documentary director before returning to narrative film with the acclaimed “Happy Hour,” a five-hour marathon feature about four female friends and their individual, unhappy home life. I wasn’t as enamored with “Happy Hour,” especially since one hour is devoted to a self-help class the women take from an uncharismatic, hippie guru. The stories that make up “Wheel” do not have the luxury to meander as each are about forty minutes long and Hamaguchi keeps us on our toes as to how each will end. One finishes with a careless mistake, one with a role-playing fantasy and the third ends twice (amazing!). This movie was shown at this year’s New York Film Festival with Hamaguchi’s other 2021 movie, “Drive My Car,” which won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes. So, it might seem like “Wheel” might be the slighter of the two films, but in no way is it less enjoyable. 

VIP: Actress Katsui Mori. If I had to choose my least favorite of the three stories, I guess it would be “Door Wide Open” as a lot of motives of the characters are never fully revealed even when they actually say why they’re doing the things they’re doing. Mori’s character is the most cryptic, even with the bits of info we are told about her character. However, I was always intrigued with her acting choices, especially a long sequence where she reads aloud from a book that is both benign and dangerous.