Kotone Furukawa Aumu Nakajima Kiyohika Shibukawa Katsuki Mori Aoba Kawai
Fusako Urabe Hyunri Shouma Kai
The wheels of fortune and fantasy do spin around in this finely executed Japanese film. Adding to the mysteriousness for English speakers will be the challenge of keeping track of the characters matched to the actors, especially since some of characters’ names may change during the segments. There are three stories: “Magic (Or Something Less Assuring)”; “Door Wide Open,” and “Once Again”—all cleverly acted out—with the cleverness becoming more apparent after one sees the whole movie.
“Magic” – After a successful commercial photoshoot, Meiko (Furukawa) is seen in a café chatting with a girlfriend (who may have been her make-up artist), Tsugumi (Hyunri). “Gumi” is elaborating on an encounter she has just had with someone she met online. They seem to have really hit it off, calling one another pet names, and she is hoping for another meeting. The women talk about first dates and what they will/will not dare to do. After they part, Meiko recognizes the man as someone from her past. What will she do with this information?
“Door Wide Open” – We see Professor Segawa ((Shibukawa) sit stoicly as a student kneels down with his head on the floor before him, begging not to be given a failing grade in a class. The class is taking place just across the hall, and the instructor there tries to get the student up and to close the door, but the professor insists it remain open. It turns out that one of the other students in the class, Nao (Mori), is having an affair with the begging student Sasaki (Kai) and the two get together soon afterward when they see that Segawa has won an award for his book. Sasaki wants to use Nao to his advantage after she admires Segawa’s book, and he manipulates her into a ruse to discredit Segawa. We get to see how this turns out.
“Once again” – Two women pass one another on escalator in a train station. One seems to recognize the other, and Nana (Kawai), after going down, goes right back up again to catch up with the woman who looks like her high school friend. Nana who had just come from her high school reunion, where she looked for Moka (Urabe) and didn’t find her there, thinks she has now run across her. After talking a bit, Moka invites Nana back to her house for tea. In the course of their conversation, real information is revealed, and Nana seems to be content as she returns for home.
You will not guess the contents of each of these stories but will be intrigued as you listen to them and discover the realities behind so many obfuscations. I actually prefer the literal translation of the title, which is Coincidences and Imagination. The film is more than simply entertainment; responses from all sides will resemble what one might see in a therapy room, both in terms of insight and solutions to problems (my tribute to the writer/director Ryusuke Hamaguchi for his insights and apparent knowledge of what people so often seek from others but fail to receive). The overall theme could be seen as people trying to find out who the people they meet really are, showing how avoidant behaviors might obscure the very things people want to know which would be helpful all around.
My parting question is how much Hamaguchi intentionally mixes up names to make us continually search to figure things out, or whether he is making a point about individual names being less important than observations about human nature.
Puzzlers will find this film intriguing as will those of us who are interested in human motivations and how we go about solving problems.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland