Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Written by Michael Clawson

90/100

A 21st century spin on Rohmer’s Rendezvous in Paris, with the cinematic ingenuity of Hong Sang-soo, and an enchantingly light interpretation of Sirkian melodrama. Contrasting with Happy Hour, which had the sweep of an epic novel, Wheel of Fortune & Fantasy is a collection of three short stories, all revolving chance encounters, infidelity, romantic desire, and the melancholy in wondering what could have been. A young woman learns that her best friend has fallen for her ex-boyfriend, who she realizes she might still be in love with; an unfaithful housewife sets an erotic trap for a college professor, only to see her plot take an unexpected turn; two female strangers mistake each other for someone else from their pasts, and then engage in a playful bit of roleplay: each story has a wonderfully breezy surface, beneath which lies an undercurrent of longing and regret. It’s a testament to both Hamaguchi’s fine directorial hand and the modulated performances that the film’s emotion never even remotely threatens to overwhelm the film’s easy-going nature and warmth. With narrative action that’s almost entirely conversational, Hamaguchi is constantly finding ways to invigorate the dialogue and tempo: there’s an engaging mix of long two-shots and bracing, Ozu-like frontal views, an exquisite, very Hongian piano score, and soft, subtle shifts in mood, even when emotions flare or amorous tension heats up. While it might not reach the heights of Hamaguchi’s Asako I & II, Wheel is perfect in how the brevity of its episodes aligns with the fleeting moments of connection and intimacy it explores.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Trailer

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is currently playing in limited theatrical release.

Follow Michael on Letterboxd or connect with him on Twitter.

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