Asako is a 21-year-old woman who falls in love with Baku, a free-spirited young man. One day, Baku suddenly disappears. 2 years later, Asako now lives in Tokyo and meets Ryohei. He looks just like Baku, but he has a completely different personality. Asako falls in love with Ryohei, but…
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The pleasures of Asako I & II, like those of Happy Hour, lie in witnessing the keen understanding evinced by Hamaguchi and his cast of how genuine emotions in romantic dyads are expressed or, just as often, concealed.
As is true of any festival, this one has some head-scratchers, including “Asako I & II,” a bland drama about a young woman, a cipher as droopy as the movie, whose heart breaks when her lover walks out.
"Asako Ⅰ & Ⅱ" is a hauntingly reveriesh & phantasmagorically nightmarish love triangle with stylish direction, repetition of sinister music & delicate depiction of a woman's floating heart. Masahiro Higashide aces as doppelgängers like the mysterious & the straightforward, making me think this is a ominous horror. Finally, I met with a Japanese movie which truly I love. It should be 20 mins shorter but still great.
The hyperbole surrounding this film is ridiculous. I saw a tender, arty love story. Nothing more. This is not Happy Hour. This is a good director dipping his toe into the commercial waters of modern Japanese cinema – a place where romantic dramas like this are a dime a dozen. I like this film and the restaurant scene is a heartbreaking punch to the gut, but I'll repeat: This Is Not Happy Hour.
Viennale _ For the little entertainment you will find here, "Asako 1&2" is still pretty bad. The first time they meet, right in the beginning, gives you the creep of how terrible the film might be. Then it settles in a more clichéd storytelling and filmmaking, solid but never really special. Only to fall down again in the last thirty minutes or so. I can´t believe this was in the Cannes official selection.
How is it that between this and his masterpiece Happy Hour, Asako feels the overlong and less spirited feature. Some pretty banal observations, I am sure this bears the same plot as a bigger American RomCom. Which is to say it has a solipsism and overall emphasis on the conflict between domesticity and _____(?) that I found unconvincing despite loving his overarching sense of play.
A "short", crowd-pleasing Hamaguchi film, one that follows its characters from early adulthood to their early 30's instead of teenage innocence being a distant, unreachable memory, is not a bad thing. And overall, it succeeds. But in its final quarter, what should be an exciting jolt of youthful energy instead becomes a long and exhausting series of twist and turns that doesn't spend enough time exploring its themes.
I feel like this movie could have ended right at the sea scene, the last 30 min being a slight letdown. Still a solid movie with such tangled and underlying emotions about relations! It was reminiscent of Burning for me, but in a lighter tone.
7.8/10 "ASAKO I & II is an auspicious discovery of a new Japanese auteur in the vein of Hirokazu Koreeda and Naomi Kawase, that is something every cineaste should extol!"
my full review - https://wp.me/p1eXom-3WV