Following his win of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the recently concluded Berlin Film Festival for “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” 42-year-old Hamaguchi Ryusuke suddenly finds himself catapulted to the directorial front ranks in his native Japan.
It’s not that he’s exactly obscure there: Hamaguchi’s 2018 romantic drama “Asako I & II” was selected for the Cannes competition while his 2015 breakthrough, the five-hour-plus drama “Happy Hour,” won a group best actress prize for its four leads at Locarno, as well as other awards that raised his profile at home and abroad.
Rather, in an industry and society that view a major foreign prize as a big status boost, Hamaguchi’s future plans are now a matter of keen media interest.
In a group conference for the Japanese press on March 6, Hamaguchi said that the three-part anthology “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” is part of a seven shorts project. The scripts for the remaining four films are still in development and a start date for shooting has not yet been decided.
“Because they’re short films I can do a lot of experimenting, keep up my directing skills and create a rhythm of production,” he explained. Hamaguchi added that he expects this project to last through the remainder of his forties, in a cycle of shorts alternating with full-length features. Speed is not of essence.
Hamaguchi has another feature already completed, “Drive My Car.” Based on a 2013 short story by acclaimed author Murakami Haruki, the film stars Nishijima Hidetoshi (“Creepy”) as a stage actor and director happily married to his playwright wife (Kirishima Reika). Then one day the wife disappears and, two years later, the hero is appointed the director of a theater festival in Hiroshima. There he is assigned a mostly silent young woman chauffeur (Miura Toko), an encounter with more significance than he at first expects.
Leading indie distributor Bitters End will release the film in Japan sometime this summer. The number of screens has yet to be decided.