One descends from the escalator and the other ascends the side escalator. Their eyes meet, isn’t that…? A chance encounter. Maybe it’s just an analogy, maybe a confusion. Quickly, going down the escalator or up again, the two women almost lost each other again. But then they face each other in amazement of disbelief. Didn’t we go to the same school? Why didn’t you go to the class meeting yesterday? The conversation went on for a long time, later in the day at Nana’s.
are you happy? Moka (Fusaku Urabe) wants to know who Nana (Oba Kawai) is. I am happy? In the end everything is completely different, a role-playing game, a puzzle game, a confusion game.
When two meet, the world goes the same. You and I, it is a double projection between longing, illusory closeness and wasted life. Japanese director Ryosuke Hamaguchi, who is best known outside the art house scene this year with his Oscar-winning Murakami movie “Driving My Car,” combined three such encounters in “Wheel of Fortune.” The film premiered at the Berlinale in 2021, in the same year as “Drive My Car”. Here, too, Hamaguchi explores the echo chambers of encounters and brings out the sensuality of speaking, solitude, and a quietly erotic moment of understanding. Two talking to each other, lost in their longing and memory, Hamaguchi invites the audience to watch them.
Three women, three points of view
In the first episode, two models talk in the back of the car on the way home from filming. Tsugumi (Hyunri Lee) talks about her new love, Meiko (Kotone Furukawa) realizes that it is about her ex, but does not reveal it and confronts him, the successful young engineer, on the same night. Injuries break out, and love is always unstable. Shortly thereafter, the three met by chance in a cafe.
In the second episode, student Nao (Katsuki Mori) tries to seduce her French teacher Segawa (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), who has banned her lover from academic work. In the professor’s office, I read him his award-winning thriller, The Explicit Passages. MeToo resonates, insisting the office door stays open. Then, Nao mistakenly sent a scam email not to him, but to the university administration. Another coincidence that has dire consequences for their careers. Years later, she meets her lover again on the bus, which is another coincidence, they are quite far from each other.
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However, it’s only the third episode, that one with former school friends on the escalator, where Hamaguchi catapults his groups of characters, spinning about chance, into another dimension, actually exciting and heart-warming. Because Nana and Mocha are aware of their alienation and absence in their lives. They bring out the unresolved pain, which is not said, which is not dreamed of, but the living. The good wife and mother of the family, a lesbian free spirit, get incredibly close just by talking to each other.
(In twelve cinemas in Berlin, all original translations)
As in “Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi proceeds cautiously, avoiding any unnecessary movement of the camera. Once again, he portrays life as a room play, as a play (Chekhov was trained to “Driving My Car”) with changing identities and meticulously designed gestures. No more and no less people appear in the rooms that correspond to them and frame their presence, in a moving car, a spacious modern architect’s office, a narrow university office, a friendly furnished living room with a floor-to-ceiling window. Lush green garden.
In the first episode, one might still be upset that girlfriends develop their identities just by talking about a guy. Don’t have other topics? On the Bechdel test on gender stereotypes, the test order will fail badly. In the second episode, the subconscious impression of the sexism between professor and student is disturbing. However, Episode III makes up for it all, as a sensitive study of a lifeline that comes in contact and is lost again in an instant.