Asako I & II

Asako I & II ★★★★

Had to check out at least one Hamaguchi film before his two 2021 releases hit Atlanta. This was excellent, a really unique and powerful romantic drama that has moments so important they will define these character's lives forever but thrives in the mundane. In a brief pre-title card introduction we see a whirlwind romance between Asako and the elusive Baku. Somewhat predictably, and without even bothering to depict it on screen, Baku walks out one night and never comes back.

We flash forward to Tokyo years later where Asako meets Ryohei, a man who looks identical to Baku (they are in fact played by the same actor) and is similarly stricken. And so the film becomes a simple and lovely romance between the two, with Ryohei unaware of what first drew her to him but deeply in love. The past is not exactly through with Asako though and the final act is an emotionally violent, heartbreaking conclusion. The three performances out of the two leads are just perfect and effortlessly naturalistic for as long as the film wants them to be. The almost supernatural elements are perfectly blended with the more grounded instincts and the result is a film that is wonderfully elusive. Even more excited now for Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. May even try to make time for the gargantuan Happy Hour since I liked this so much.

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