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By Riley Hamilton

The films of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi live in oxymorons. Loneliness is shared. The dead live. Silence speaks. 

Ryusuke Hamaguchi burst into the American film consciousness in 2021 following the vastly successful Drive My Car, which garnered four Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Mr. Hamaguchi himself. But he had quietly been making shorts and feature films since 2003. You could call his career an oxymoron: He’s a veteran of his craft and one of Japan’s most exciting new voices in film.

His newest film, the highly praised eco-drama/thriller Evil Does Not Exist opens June 7 at The Independent Picture House. If you don’t know Hamaguchi’s work, now is a good time to explore it.

In his films, love and grief are synonymous. Both bring deep affliction, conflict, mystery; they are incurable ailments of the heart and soul, an inevitable part of living and enduring. But it’s not just that his characters grieve the dead and love the living. They experience even deeper sorrow in losing someone who hasn’t passed on or for a love unexpressed. 

His works also provoke a sort-of temporary hypnosis. In Heaven is Still Far Away and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, characters address the camera as if their words are secrets, a conversation between a character and audience, for your ears only. His shots and sounds meld perfectly, such as this scene is Asako I & II. He knows when to use music and when to use natural, ambient sound or, better yet, when to use no sound at all. It’s like watching the ’86-87 Lakers: pure, perfect magic. And in all his works, he is patient. He is never afraid to let his images linger just a little longer and lull us into a trance molded by his capable hands.

He is at times a hypnotist and a magician. He is a consummate filmmaker, one of the greatest of our time. How does he do it so damn well? He understands how film and words and art live through us, mold us and move us. His words, unsurprisingly, are much more powerful than my own:

Even if you’re not a filmmaker, I think that there can be times when the world outside can look completely different when you step out of a movie theater, where your eyes and ears have been re-trained. It’s difficult for me to think that there is any other place that exists right now that can have this kind of an effect. A movie theater is not just a place that provides high-quality experiences, but they are places that have the power to change a person’s life completely.

Don’t miss Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s latest, Evil Does Not Exist, which opens Friday, June 7, at IPH.


Riley Hamilton loves writing, movies, baseball, good beer and shooting on his Polaroid Sx-70. In other words, he’s dope.
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