Two new films arrive at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Oct. 22. “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” and “I’m Your Man” are both about relationships but very different kinds. In the case of “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” it’s about female friendships, and “I’m your Man” concerns what happens between a scientist and a humanoid robot.
‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’
Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, the Japanese film “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” won the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and is an anthology divided into three parts. The first, “Magic (or Something Less Assuring),” describes Meiko (Kotone Furukawa), a model, and her colleague and friend, Tsugumi (Hyunri), as they discuss Tsugumi’s attraction to a new boyfriend. When the conversation unfolds, Tsugumi realizes that Kazuaki (Ayumu Nakajima) is the ex-boyfriend she’s never gotten entirely over.
Tsugumi confronts Kazuaki on the nature of his new, so-called magical relationship, and confesses her continued love for him. Later when the two women are having coffee together, Kazuaki walks by, and the truth comes out.
Episode 2, “Door Wide Open,” describes what happens when the student Sasaki (Shouma Kai) prostrates himself, begging for a passing grade from Professor Segawa (Kiyohiko Shibukawa). Then he talks his lover, the supposedly more mature student Nao (Katsuki Mori), into exacting revenge on the professor.
Nao goes to his office, where he insists the door be left open, and secretly records her attempts to seduce him. Five years later, Nao, now divorced, sees Sasaki on a bus, and they discuss what’s happened to the professor.
The final episode, “Any Day Now,” uncovers the potentially lesbian relationship between Natsuko (Fusako Urabe) and Aya (Aoba Kawai). The two bump into each other on a Sendai Station escalator and renew what seems like a long-ago friendship. As the two chat and learn about each other’s high school years, a surprising discovery is made.
The way “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” is divided into three distinctly separate vignettes makes it a potentially shallow film. But the sections are interesting enough and have enough details to make this anthology worth watching.
‘I’m Your Man’
Returning to the Film Center, this intriguing film has the researcher Alma (Maren Eggert) pressed into participating in an experiment in which she takes on a humanoid robot Tom (Dan Stevens) for three weeks. At first Alma is suspicious and downright hostile to Tom, with his steely blue eyes and ability to accommodate her every need. In one scene she discovers she can put her hand through what are actually humanoid robots in a nightclub. In another, she watches Tom straighten up her apartment at double time. “Can you stop doing everything right?” she demands. “You’re drunk,” he responds. When she tries to seduce him, he follows her into the bedroom and then, to her surprise, says goodnight and leaves. Later, they take a walk through the woods and, lying down, talk until Alma falls asleep. When she wakes up, Tom is gone, and she goes looking for him. Alma finds him in a field, surrounded by deer. They have no fear of him, he explains, because he doesn’t smell like a human being.
Such details continue, with her frustration and anger, until he leaves her apartment. She follows him into a museum and find him staring at a statue. He’s been waiting for her there; in other words, he knew she would come. Asked how he got inside, he explains that as a computerized robot he can sync with the computerized lock.
Once they make love and she reaches fulfilment, in his robotic way he asks her what that feels like. At this turning point, she announces she feels as if she’s acting in a play, and states she’s ending the experiment early. “Where am I to go?” he asks. “I won’t exist anymore. I’ll be erased.” At this point Alma writes a report on the experiment. “I strongly reject authorizing humanoids as life partners,” she says, but it is clear that she misses him.
Directed by Maria Schrader, “I’m Your Man” won four German awards. It explores the nature of relationships in the modern world in insightful ways. Despite its sci-fi theme, it is a realistic story of a romance between two individuals, one human, one robot.
Information and tickets for “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” and “I’m Your Man” are available through mvfilmsociety.com.