films seen
average score
Japan - 45 years old
Alive and kicking
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Asako I & II

Netemo Sametemo
2018 / 119m - Japan
Drama, Romance
Asako I & II poster

A fine and delicate mix of intricate drama and outspoken narratives. The actors do a great job, but it's Hamaguchi who finds the perfect balance between narrative intrigue and emotional drama. Smart direction, beautifully executed and powerful when it needs to be. Not for everyone, but the film won me over in no time.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Guzen to Sozo
2021 / 121m - Japan
Drama, Romance
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy poster

Before taking a stab at Hamaguchi's latest success, I figured it would be fun to catch up with this little anthology project. What you get are three unrelated short stories that are very minute in scope and driven by strong performances. This isn't usually my preferred type of cinema, but the contrast between the blunt honesty of the characters and their excessively prim, solemn composure is pretty riveting. The shorts are very similar in style and structure and Hamaguchi fails his chance to experiment with form, but when the quality is consistently high, that's hardly a negative.

Drive My Car

Doraibu Mai Kâ
2021 / 179m - Japan
Drive My Car poster

Good film, but it begs the question of how many Japanese dramas people have seen. It sticks to conventions pretty neatly and apart from weaving in a play (which wasn't very subtle), it's a very solid but textbook example of what Japanese dramas deliver and how they go about delivering it.

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Kafuku is happily married to his wife. They have a good marriage, and they love to rehearse lines while driving. When Kafuku's trip is suddenly canceled, he returns home to find his wife in bed with another man. He leaves without them noticing. Before he can confront her though, she dies from a brain hemorrhage.

The lengthy conversations in pleasing settings, the slow pacing, the dramatic punch in the gut at the end, they're all staples of the genre. Hamaguchi handles them well, it's only the play that feels a bit too on nose and takes up too much time. Drive My Car is a perfectly fine film, but not worth the hype.

Touching the Skin of Eeriness

Bukimi na Mono no Hada ni Sawaru
2013 / 54m - Japan
Touching the Skin of Eeriness poster

Evil Does Not Exist

Aku wa Sonzai Shinai
2023 / 106m - Japan
Drama, Mystery
Evil Does Not Exist poster

Hamaguchi's latest is another decent film. I'm still unsure of why he became the token Japanese drama director of our times, but here we are. Evil Does Not Exist is another slow-moving drama, with a rural twist. It's pretty basic drama fare, with an archetypical arthouse ending tacked on.

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A small rural community is going about its business when it hears that a glamping site is opening very close by. They go to a meeting where two representatives unveil the plans to them. The meeting doesn't go quite as planned and the representatives return soon after to present a new proposition.

The pacing is very slow but deliberate. Hamaguchi takes his time, with many scenes playing out in real-time, aptly setting the mood. I'm a bit surprised about the setup (quite a few contemporary Japanese dramas deal with withering local communities, Hamaguchi's take appears to be the opposite), it's also a bit too generic for my taste. The ending does add some intrigue, but not enough to make this a great film. A perfectly serviceable movie though, just a bit overhyped because of the name attached to it.

Happy Hour

Happi Awa
2015 / 317m - Japan
Happy Hour poster

There's a lot of good things here, at its best it's a drama that reminded me of Tokyo.sora. But the running time is simply indefensible and there's simply too much dialogue for a Japanese film. The acting is great though and the characters are interesting, but give Hamaguchi some scissors.

I Love Thee for Good

Eien ni Kimi wo Aisu
2009 / 58m - Japan
I Love Thee for Good poster

An early TV project by the venerable Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. It's a pretty simple setup for a drama, but Hamaguchi is rather good at drawing out simple setups. The TV roots of the film aren't working in its favor, but at the same time, I've seen much worse, so kudos to Hamaguchi for dealing with that variable rather efficiently.

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Nagako and Seiichi are about to get married, but Nagako is hiding a depressing secret. She is pregnant, but she suspects the baby isn't Seiichi's. She isn't planning on telling him about the situation, but right before the wedding Seiichi approaches her and tells her that he knows she's been unfaithful to him.

If I explain any more about the story than I covered just about the entire film. You won't be watching this film for the plot though. Instead, there are some nice performances and Hamaguchi deals with the situation in an interesting way. A pleasant, though very basic and simple drama.