My feature review for Cinema Scope.
Unlike other super-long films in relatively recent memory -- and because it's another Japanese auteur film, the one that keeps coming to mind is Shinji Aoyama's very different Eureka -- Happy Hour uses length in the manner of a novella. For Hamaguchi, length does not equal duration. At the same time, there is a modesty and containment that defines Happy Hour.
This is why I would definitely not say that it has novelistic sweep. In terms of pacing, yes, Happy Hour's narrative engine runs much more like that of, say, The Best of Youth than Satantango. But the comparison would misconstrue Hamaguchi's narrow focus, and the intimate gaze Happy Hour solicits from its viewers.
Five-plus hours? No biggie. Distributor wanted.