Director and screenplay: Hamaguchi Ryūsuke,Nohara Tadashi,Takahashi Tomoyuki
· Mihara Maiko
· Kawamura Rira
· Tanaka Sachie
· Kikuchi Hazuki
Production: Takata Satoshi, Okamoto Hideyuki, Nohara Tadashi
Running Time: 317 minutes
Release Date: 2015
Official Site: hh.fictive.jp
The pervasiveness of the network has among its many effects also to give the feeling that the distant, the different, the extraordinary, in a general and undifferentiated specific weight loss of things and people is becoming more and more normal. Reducing extraordinaryness to the normal is a re-made task of literature and cinema. But in cinemas, the film that moves along these lines is very subtle the boundaries between works made of articulate minimalism and films that really give meaning and life to the story, or rather the percentage of the first compared to the Seconds is overwhelming. Even for these reasons, Yamaguchi’s film-river (five hours and seventeen) has struck me deeply.
History of a short piece of life of four thirty women in their everyday life made of friendship, families, loneliness, work, duties and love missed. In Japan, many friendships are born at high school time and they continue throughout their lives. In this case, however, the four women came into contact after the studies, thanks to the impulse of one of them, Jun, who assigns human relationships and friendship to fundamental importance and makes that feeling even in the other three. The four friends meet, organize activities, make small trips together. Slowly but concretely, their existences open up to the viewer’s eyesight.
The most dramatic situation is exactly that of Jun, who suffers because her husband for years “does not realize that she exists”. He also had a extramarital affair now closed but can not get out of the cage: he asks for divorce but his husband denies him with a pervicia to the limit of sadism. A similar situation is Fumi, who has a courtesy relationship with her husband, but as if in vitro, without the least emotional participation. And again this is the case of Sakurako, married to a son whose husband has work as a single concern, considers domestic life as a disorder and has no physical relationship with her for some time. Akari, on the other hand, is the only divorced in the group, does the nurse and is, apparently, very rigid, all of a sudden, but then reveals deep weaknesses. Around them turn various figures, obviously husbands, some colleague, some occasional acquaintance who then takes on body as an autonomous figure and interacts with them.
After this long dive into the lives of the protagonists, it feels almost sorry that they can not continue to follow them and at the same time come up with some of the many ideas the movie has launched. Certainly a picture of marvelous and depressing conjugal relationships emerges. The most disturbing thing in these stories of domestic alienation are the repeated statements of all three husbands who in times of crisis say they love their wives but are unable to understand and communicate with them. And women, on the other hand, feel all, in different ways, neglected, abandoned, not seen. A sense of sparring that touches more than a sociological essay.
Another aspect that strikes is that, as in many cases, dialogues go almost immediately to the staff, if not intimately, not only between the four women but also with outside members of their group. This familiarity takes on even greater weight in contrast to the lack of communication within the protagonists’ families, and vice versa.
In addition to these more sociological aspects, the strongest emotion coming from the vision is that it feels like perceiving life that runs in minutes as in the years and how protagonists relate to it constantly questioning who they are, what they are Become what they wanted to be. There is no nostalgia or regret, rather a continuous vital endeavor to adhere to its reality and its continuous changes.
Contrary to what you might think, the film has a well-defined plot and a growing development. The surprising result is that those who look through the over five hours of projection spasimando for the fate of the four women as if they were following a thriller. Merit goes to an extraordinary direction that can bring the viewer to the scene and share the fears, anxieties, rages, disappointments and hopes of the protagonists. This is achieved mainly thanks to two elements. The first is a screenplay of supreme intelligence and sensitivity that, while returning to the spectator the plot of a daily life that could be of anyone, is not afraid to venture into areas of reflection in direct contact with a disruptive existence. The second is the four actresses themselves. Unprecedented cinematic, known by Hamaguchi during an amateur acting workshop, succeed in transforming their lack of experience into unparalleled freshness and spontaneity. It is no coincidence that at the Locarno 2015 Festival the four actresses (together, made unpublished) and the screenplay have been rewarded.
Unknown in the West (but see the brief passionate review by Mase Yukie in front of a retrospective of his work in Japan), Hamaguchi is a real revelation, to be immediately mentioned among the few great new names in contemporary Japanese cinema. So far he has signed a dozen works, including some shorts, documentaries, two or three fiction works. His style seems to be a strange cross between fiction and documentary, like that of a kind of entomologist of human passions. An approach already experienced in Intimacies (Shinimtsusa, 2013), a four-hour fiction screenplay for a theatrical performance, and The Sound of Waves (Nami no koe: shinchi machi, 2012), shot with director Sakai Ko Documentary based on “capturing” the conversations of people who suffered the tsunami in the great Tohoku earthquake of 2011. All previous experiences seem to come to fruition with this Happy Hour. We look forward to his next job. Meanwhile, it is advisable to read the beautiful interview by Nicolas Bardot (Film de culte), where he tells the inspiration from Cassavetes’s Husbands and is among the directors most influenced by Rohmer, Ozu and Naruse. [Katsuyuki Nakanishi]