October 20, 2021

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Why Hamaguchi Raisuk has an appeal that extends beyond Asia

3 min read

The Japanese film industry has produced dozens of directors, who have been praised as masters by Japanese critics for decades but have never been well-known abroad. Kurosawa Akira and Ozu Yasujiro once regularly check names by foreign filmmakers visiting Japan; Locally famous Naruse Mikio and Kinoshita Keisuke, much less.

A similar situation has existed for a long time with the so-called “4K” director-Core-Ada Hirokazu, Kawse Naomi, Kurosawa Kiyoshi and Kitano Takeshi, who have collected the lion’s share of major festival invitations and awards for nearly two decades. The young generation of Japanese filmmakers in relative ambiguity internationally. Now someone has decided to break the “4K” barrier: Hamaguchi Raisuk.

Hamaguchi was interviewed on the stage of the Busan International Film Festival this week by Korean star director Bong Jun-ho at the opening ceremony of the festival, and again on Friday evening wearing the red carpet at the Asian Film Awards.

Hamaguchi, 422, is hardly a newcomer: he made his debut at the Tokyo University of Arts with a 200-year-old “passion” for a master’s degree. He then co-directed a three-part documentary about the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan. But the landmark of her fiction feature was 2015’s “Happy Hour”, a five-hour-long drama that won the best actress award for her four leaderships – in all the unknown workshops – at Locarno. Her 2018 relationship drama “Asako I and II” was selected for the Cannes competition, but it received mixed reactions and went off without a prize.

Then this year, in quick succession, came the “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” and “Drive My Car”. The former film, another female-centric drama, won the Jury Grand Prize in Berlin, while the latter, based on a Murakami Haruki short story, won three awards in Cannes, including Hamaguchi and co-writer Way Takamasa’s best screenplay. (Hamaguchi Kurosawa also co-scripted Kiyoshi’s AFA-winning “wife of a spy.”)

These two Hamaguchi films have not only won over foreign festival programmers and critics who have given them admirable reviews, but market buyers are also often not friendly to Asian art films. One is Italy, where local distributor Taka’s film “Wheel” in August and “Drive My Car” in September start from Rome.

Acquisition chief Sabrina Barasetti, who is also the director of the Udin Far East Film Festival, where “Wheel” premiered in late June, referred to the Western-style “drama” of the film’s three-part structure (“you can define it as three unique works,” she says). , While comparing Hamaguchi’s “spoken cinematic skills” with the post-war golden age Titan Ozu and Narus. “But he also reminds me of Ingmar Bergman, with whom he shares the power of dialogue in both conversation and silence,” he added. “Hamaguchi is a director and screenwriter who knows how to balance East and West consciousness, which is why his film is so appealing to Italian audiences.”

And if the other scheduled releases of “Wheel” and “Drive My Car” in Europe and the United States give any indication, Barasetti is not alone in his praise – and Hamaguchi is the new international face of today’s Japanese cinema.

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