“Sex is one of the means to achieve happiness”


After ten years spent in the anonymity of independence and self-production, Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi has enjoyed a meteoric rise since 2015, becoming a safe bet at major international festivals. In addition to a harvest of awards, including a prestigious Oscar, Drive My Car met with success in French cinemas, with nearly 200,000 admissions despite a release in the midst of a pandemic and its duration of almost three hours in original version. With Tales of chance and other fantasiesthe 43-year-old director rehabilitates the form of the film with sketches and declines in three stories a series of love coincidences.

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What is the origin of the film?

At the start, my desire was to make short films because the format allows you to work in a much more flexible economy, to find a freedom to experiment that you don’t necessarily have on bigger budgets. However, the disadvantage of the short format is that it does not have many broadcast windows. In February 2019, I had the opportunity to chat with Mary Stephen, who was Eric Rohmer’s editor. It was she who suggested to me the idea of ​​bringing together several short films to make a long program, a kind of collection, allowing a release under normal conditions. The advantage of such a project is that it can be extended at will and give rise to all kinds of small series. In April 2019, I had producer Satoshi Takata read a few segments who had accompanied me on Senses. He said to me: “We are going on that”.

The actors are at the center of your work, which is an art of dialogue. How did you work with them?

The relationship with the actors is what interests me the most in directing work. The film being made with a very modest budget, the actors had to be not only interested in the content, but also agree to invest in the duration. So we took a lot of time before shooting to rehearse and read the script. We meet around a table to read the text devoid of any feeling, any emotion. We focus on the words. The aim of these readings is for the staging to reveal itself through the text. In fact, I give almost no indication of acting. It’s the encounter between the actors, their bodies and the text that brings out the rest.

Speech is most often intimate for you. But here, it takes on a more sensual, even erotic dimension…

The principle of conversation is to mingle with others. It is a movement that aims to abolish the boundaries between oneself and others. Which gives the feeling of being alive and the happiness that accompanies it. Sexuality is a way to achieve it, but its effects are ephemeral, sexual intercourse often leads to a kind of emptiness, disappointment. Getting closer to the other through words, mixing psychologically with someone, so to speak, ultimately allows access to this joy in a much more intense and lasting way. The dialogues of the film try to express this conception of things that I draw from my own life.

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