News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

MSU Cinema International Presents Reality-Bending Romance 'Asako I & II' This Week

Murray State Cinema International presents "Asako I & II" on Thursday, March 9th, and Saturday, March 11th, at 7:30 pm in Faculty Hall, room 208.
MSU Cinema International
Murray State Cinema International presents "Asako I & II" on Thursday, March 9th, and Saturday, March 11th, at 7:30 pm in Faculty Hall, room 208.

This week, Murray State's Cinema International presents the 2018 Japanese film Asako I & II, the third film presented by the program directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. Asia Burnett speaks to Japanese professor Yoko Hatakeyama and retired professor Mike Waag ahead of the screenings.

From the MSU Cinema International website:
"Academy Award director of Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's mysterious and intoxicating pop romance is an adaptation of the novel by Tomoka Shibasaki. It begins with Asako, a young woman who meets and falls madly in love with Baku again—or, rather, a young, solid businessman who bears a striking resemblance to her old flame. They begin building a happy life together until traces of Asako's past start to resurface. A beguiling film. An unpredictable study of trust, willfulness, and modern Japan."

"In this particular film, and in all of his films, Hamaguchi gives us a usually simple plot and uses it as a vehicle to suddenly conduce us to consider not-so-simple philosophical ideas about life," Haag explains. "In Asako I & II, he hones in on the dichotomy of illusion and reality and particularly on the illusion of permanence of anything and the inevitable disillusion we experience when reality intrudes on our illusions."

"A young, naive girl falls in love with this flamboyant fellow, no doubt the first time she ever has, and he takes a walk—disappears altogether. The illusion she makes of something she hangs onto obsessively, and nevertheless, she runs across somebody who looks exactly like him," Haag continues. "She enters into a really nice relationship with this man, and, of course, inevitably, who shows up? The first one. What does she do?"

"The Japanese title of Asako is 'even when I'm asleep or awake,'" Hatakeyama says. "At first, I thought the title suggests Asako cannot forget the man with whom she madly falls in love at first sight and is thinking about him at all times, even when asleep or awake."

"However, I've realized that this title might suggest a different meaning as well," she continues. "Hamaguchi shows two Asakos: one for sleeping, being out of touch with reality, living in illusion, and another who is awake in reality. In order for her to reach reality, Asako needs to step into a dream world where she cannot distinguish what is real and what is unreal. The movie might ask you whether or not Asako finds her true love through this process."

Asako I & II uses symbolism to speak to the audience, and Haag recommends the audience "observe carefully and listen to the commentary around certain events that seem incidental, like a plate breaking or an earthquake or a river, and try to figure out how these events metaphorically relate to the lives of the characters."

"The entire movie shows us the contrast between fantasy and reality," Hatakeyama adds. One way to mark this divide, she explains, was through the film's earthquake, which harkens back to the catastrophic earthquake that hit Japan in March 2011. "Japanese people experienced that—yesterday's normal is not today's normal anymore. In the movie, the earthquake happened at a theatre, which is a symbolic presentation of how realities are burst. From this point of view, the real world and the unrealistic world might be both sides of the same coin."

MSU Cinema International presents Asako I & II on Thursday, March 9th, and Saturday, March 11th, at 7:30 pm in Faculty Hall, room 208. There will be a brief discussion following the film. Both screenings and discussions are free and open to the public.

Asia Burnett is WKMS Station Manager.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
Related Content