Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi brings Tomoka Shibasaki’s 2010 novel “Walking or Sleeping”(寝ても覚めても) to the silver screen as the film “Asako I & II”.

It didn’t seem real how Asako (Erika Karata) effortlessly fell in love with the quiet and eccentric Baku (Masahiro Hidashige, “Yocho”). They had happy days with their friends in Osaka. Not even a motorcycle accident affected them, but their relationship ended suddenly one summer day when Baku didn’t return home from getting snacks. Life had to go on and Asako moved to a metropolis. It would be almost three years after her first love’s disappearance that she ran into a business man who had Baku’s face but a different name. He introduced himself as Ryohei and he was nearly a mirror opposite to Baku. One of the few things he had in common with the old flame was that he also ended up falling for Asako. Unlike the time in Osaka, Ryohei stayed by her side and even proposed to stay by her side forever. Things seemed right for the two of them until word that Baku was in town reached Asako.

When SDAFF Artistic Director Brian Hu introduced the film at the event, he called the film “dreamy, ghostly and provocative.” He was right especially with the character Baku. The movie mentioned its literal translation which was the animal tapir. However, those that knew a bit about Japanese folklore would know that a baku was a special being that would devour nightmares and was a creature of good fortune. in the first part of of the movie, it seems that nothing could go wrong for Asako with Baku by her side. However, he appeared more like a gentle nightmare when he returned to her. Masahiro Hideshige had a wonderful performance as both Baku and Ryohei. His role as the alien Dr. Makabe on “Yocho (Foreboding)” may have helped with bringing out Baku’s strange personality. Overall, “Asako I & II” was a drama of a woman trying to grow out of an old relationship to bring in her new lover.

For more information, visit SDAFF’s webpage on “Asako I & II”. Interested readers can also visit their 2015 festival page on Hamaguchi’s previous film “Happy Hour”.

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