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Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 18:45 - 21:30
A First Love Disappears, and a Doppelgänger Takes His Place

Sneak Preview Screening: "ASAKO I & II (Netemo sametemo)"
featuring a Q&A with director Ryusuke Hamaguchi and star Erika Karata

 Wednesday, August 29 at 6:45*ASAKO I  II 356p
*Please note early start time.

In Japanese with English subtitles
Japan/France 2018 119 minutes 

Directed by: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Written by: Sachiko Tanaka and Ryusuke Hamaguchi,
based on the novel by Tomoka Shibasaki
Produced by: Yuji Sadai, Teruhisa Yamamoto, Yasuhiko Hattori
Starring: Masahiro Higashide, Erika Karata, Koji Seto,
Rio Yamashita, Sairi ito, Daichi Watanabe

Film courtesy of Bitters End   

Seemingly out of nowhere, Ryusuke Hamaguchi was catapulted into the big leagues in May, when his new film was selected for the Official Competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Although "Asako I & II" was overshadowed by the eventual Palm d' Or winner, which was also from Japan, the nomination confirms that Hamaguchi is now a member of a very exclusive group of auteurs.

The director first received international acclaim for his 5-hour 17-minute revelation "Happy Hour," winner of the 2015 Locarno Best Actress award. He has already completed nine films in just over a decade, including a trilogy of documentaries centered around the Fukushima disaster, and has been a fixture on the festival circuit since his first release.

"Asako I & II" is Hamaguchi's most commercial release to date, but it is also an enigmatic meditation on first love, and the staggering power it exerts over our ability to move on with our lives once it ends.

Osaka college student Asako (Karata) first sees Baku (Higashide) at a photography exhibit, and smiles to herself about his uncombed mop of hair, his flip-flops and coveralls. But shortly after leaving the museum, she turns to find him just feet away, and they exchange names. Then, as firecrackers go off behind them, they kiss deeply. A few days later, they relate their meet-cute story to disbelieving friends at an izakaya. "It's fate," says Baku. Asako's BFF Haruyo (Ito, in a standout performance) immediately warns her, "He's a heartbreaker - I know he's gonna make you cry." And indeed, Haruyo is right. The happy couple has only 6 months together before Baku disappears one day while out shopping for shoes.

Inconsolable, Asako finally moves to Tokyo and takes a barista job. Sometime later, she comes face to face with Baku again, although she gradually accepts that he is actually who he says he is: Ryohei Maruko (also played by Higashide), a straight-laced marketing executive for a sake company near her café. Confused by Asako's sudden advances, followed by a sudden chill when she realizes her mistake, Ryohei falls as hard for Asako as she fell for Baku. A serious, reliable type - the polar opposite of her ex - he gradually wins her trust, and they're brought firmly together by the shock of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. But whether it's really love is a mystery, even to Asako. Although their lives fall into a comfortable pattern, her secret obsession with Baku keeps getting in the way.

And then, 5 years later, Asako is confronted with the ghost of her past, and makes an astounding choice.

Please join us for this sneak preview of the seductively mysterious "Asako I & II" on August 29, prior to the Japanese release on September 1.

For more (in Japanese):

Writer-director RYUSUKE HAMAGUCHI's graduation film at Tokyo University of the Arts, "Passion," was selected for the 2008 San Sebastian Film Festival and Tokyo Filmex. His Japan-South Korea  coproduction "The Depths" (2010) was also selected for Tokyo Filmex. With Ko Sakai, he made a three- part documentary that screened at the Yamagata Film Festival: "Sound of the Waves" and "Voices of the Waves" are about survivors of the 2011 Tohoku disasters, and "Storytellers" is about the region's folktales. He went on to make the 255-minute "Intimacies" (2012), the mid-length feature "Touching the Skin of Eeriness" (2013), starring Shota Sometani, and the much-heralded 5-hour 17-minute "Happy Hour," starring four non-professional actresses who participated in his acting workshop. It received a slew of awards at film festivals around the world.

Actress ERIKA KARATA was scouted by an agency and entered show business in 2014. She began modeling in fashion magazines, appearing in TV commercials and music videos. She made her TV drama debut in 2015, and has also starred on "Koe Koi," "Blanket Cats" and "Kiss That Kills." "Asako I & II" marks her first major film role. She appeared earlier this year in the hit "Love x Doc" and will soon be seen in "Are You Ready? Hey You Girl!"

Please make your reservations at the FCCJ Reception Desk (3211-3161) or register below. You may attend the Q&A session without attending the screening, but you will not have seating priority. All film screenings are private, noncommercial events primarily for FCCJ members and their guests.

- Karen Severns, Film Committee

ASAKO I & II 290p.jpg
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