Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

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zedz
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Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#1 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:07 pm

I've decided to optimistically open a thread for the best new film I've seen so far this year, Hamaguchi Ryusuke's 5+ hour quiet epic Happy Hour.

The film focuses on a group of four middle-aged female friends in Kobe. We meet them at a drizzly picnic before they split up and afford us glimpses of their everyday work and family life. The first half-hour or so is gently observational, kind of a cross between Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Eric Rohmer. The group reconvene to make up numbers at a day-long yoga-esque workshop organized by one of their number, Fumi, and this is where the film drifts, unexpectedly but delightfully, into Rivette territory. The pace slows right down to examine the activities of the characters, and the subtle, largely non-verbal, interactions between them, over an extravagant stretch of cinema time (well over an hour if you factor in the revealing social gathering that follows). The characters unfold before us, making unexpected revelations and alchemically altering established relationships.

The film resumes a more standard pace when the quartet split up again, but each time they reconvene, Hamaguchi's cinematic microscope comes back out and we get to experience some kind of performance in unusual detail. In the middle of the film, it's Jun's divorce hearing; in the second half, in a mirror of the workshop, it's a book reading (which pretty much occupies real time). By the time of this latter event, radical changes have happened within the group, which has moved towards individual isolation for a variety of complex reasons, and the event is far more fraught and fragmented than its first-half counterpart, as is the dinner that follows. The narrative is carefully worked out, but develops logically and naturalistically (the script and characters were developed through extensive workshopping).

Hamaguchi's style is elegant and unfussy, with the occasional flourish when he artfully throws a character into shadow or plays with layered reflections. More deliberately, from time to time a character's gaze might directly address the camera. The first time this happens, it creates an incongruous connection that will only be followed up several hours later. The performances are superb, almost all coming from first-time actors, and no characters are conceived as fixed: even tertiary characters get the opportunity to surprise us in their limited screen time.

I'm not familiar with any of Hamaguchi's previous films (which include a 2007 Solaris!), but Happy Hour is the work of a major talent and is well worth taking the time to experience.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#2 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:27 pm

How did you see this?

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#3 Post by swo17 » Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:34 pm

Presumably at the New Zealand International Film Festival. Closer to you, it's playing at MoMA next month.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#4 Post by feihong » Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:37 pm

Sounds great! I'm hoping to see this then, some time in the indefinite future.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#5 Post by JakeB » Fri Jul 22, 2016 1:12 am

I saw this last year at the Leeds International Film Festival. Sadly, the screening I saw was compromised. It had at two intermissions, forced by festival, which were a bit jarring. It was also projected wrong. It was shot in 1:75, which probably confused the projectionist, and they ended up cutting off the bottom of the subtitles. I'd be interested to see it again.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#6 Post by Underdog67 » Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:46 pm

Saw this the other day at moma, and it took some getting used to after the screening(the sheer magnitude of dialogue, as well as the complexity and detail within it, particularly in the second half, made it hard to initially get a grasp on) but I have to say out front: this is without a doubt the best movie of 2016. As Zedz said, the approach of the film is simple, Hamaguchi rather quietly letting the personalities and narratives of these characters unfold naturally before our very eyes, an observer that rarely interferes with the flow of the film or the development of the titular four characters(and others). Moments when Hamaguchi projects visually onto the characters psychological state are few and far between, which only make those moments more enticing, a delightful change of pace in a largely impressionistic movie. As a film about relationships, platonic or physical, it has a lot to say about the challenge, as well as wisdom, of accumulating different perspectives and balancing one's needs with that of another. And being that Hamuguchi appears to allocate much of his empathy to the female characters(though humanizing everyone), its also another great addition in a long lineage of, "women developing in a man's world," genre of film. Single-handedly elevates this year from a good year in film to a great one.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:37 pm

More chances to see this (and its director).

Sooner -- at Yale on September 16 at 5:30 PM: http://whc.yale.edu/events" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Later -- at the Harvard Film Archive on November 12 at 3:00 PM: http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2016sepnov/happy.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#8 Post by beamish13 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:08 pm

Is there any word yet on this or any of Hamaguchi's other works getting Blu-Ray releases with English subtitles?

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#9 Post by JMULL222 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 8:44 am

HAPPY HOUR was picked up for U.S. distribution by Kimstim and will be available on DVD/VOD sometime this year, or at least, that was the plan as of recently.

TOUCHING THE SKIN OF EERINESS is available for legal download w/ U.S. subtitles at some website, I'll have to find the link.

The rest are, to my knowledge, only available to see theatrically. I conducted an interview with Mr. Hamaguchi around the time of the above-mentioned HFA screenings; at that time, he said that there were no current plans for other home video releases of his work.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#10 Post by feckless boy » Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:21 am

JMULL222 wrote:The rest are, to my knowledge, only available to see theatrically..
Also, Hamaguchi's 2008 feature Passion is available on DVD in this set (with English subtitles).

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#11 Post by yoshimori » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:20 pm

JMULL222 wrote:TOUCHING THE SKIN OF EERINESS is available for legal download w/ U.S. subtitles at some website, I'll have to find the link.
Please do. Just looked, but no luck. Curious film.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#12 Post by WmS » Tue Apr 25, 2017 11:01 pm

Looks like it's here:

https://en.loadshow.jp/films/8

Interesting site: a few other Japanese movies and an American-Australian doc. Some free to download, some paid.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#13 Post by McCrutchy » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:52 pm

This film caught my attention while browsing the Icarus Films site. It looks like the DVD will be out on December 5th, 2017. It's apparently a two-disc set, and is currently going for $19.83 on Amazon.com.

Amazing that so little of Hamaguchi's work is on video, even in Japan, where it seems virtually nothing is available on DVD, including Happy Hour (which is『ハッピーアワー』in Japanese).

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#14 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:23 pm

I was hoping there was news of an imminent release when I saw this thread bumped, so thanks McCrutchy. This is one of those films I've been forlornly checking yesasia for ever since I saw it last year.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#15 Post by McCrutchy » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:28 am

zedz wrote:I was hoping there was news of an imminent release when I saw this thread bumped, so thanks McCrutchy. This is one of those films I've been forlornly checking yesasia for ever since I saw it last year.
No problem, zedz, pleased to be of service. :)

I really find it fascinating that the US is, it seems, not only the first country anywhere in the world to provide a home video release for Happy Hour, but also to release any of Hamaguchi's films onto a commercial home video format. I do note that Passion is available from Japan, but only as a supplement to what is considered an academic work, so for me, that doesn't really count.

I really don't buy DVDs anymore, especially not for new releases, but I am making an exception because of the relative obscurity and scarcity of the material. It feels a bit strange to say that in 2017, when many important films are released on Blu-ray somewhere in the world, but I think it's releases like the DVD of Happy Hour which serve to remind us how important the US home video market really is, even as digital formats continue to try to anesthetize it.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#16 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:45 am

Thanks for mentioning this McCrutchy! Based on the reactions here I have ordered a copy too, if just to support the release!

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#17 Post by longstone » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:51 pm

Yes, thanks for the heads up, another copy ordered here.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#18 Post by isakorg2 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:51 pm

Ditto.

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zedz
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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#19 Post by zedz » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:20 pm

I think McCrutchy has just become Icarus Films' new unofficial Marketing Manager.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#20 Post by McCrutchy » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:20 pm

zedz wrote:I think McCrutchy has just become Icarus Films' new unofficial Marketing Manager.
First day:

New marketing plan: Release Jean Rouch film set on a 4xBD-50 Blu-ray set, release Happy Hour on a 2xBD-50 Blu-ray set, release all further titles on Blu-ray and/or Blu-ray/DVD combo packs (if cheaper), sit back and enjoy landslide of profits.

Second day:

Long-term marketing plan: Acquire entire MGM catalog and begin actually remastering/restoring films for release by Icarus Films and other licensees.

Third day:

Personal day: Find self, buy hammock, relax in exultation.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#21 Post by McCrutchy » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:48 pm

I received my copy today. I haven't had any time to watch it, yet, but here is the breakdown of specs.

I haven't done this for a DVD in a long while, so I might be a bit rusty, but here goes.

The DVD set is in a standard clear DVD-size case, with nothing inside except the DVD discs, which come on separate hubs, have full-color disc art, and are marked "Disk 1" and "Disk 2". Somewhat disappointingly, the presentation is one dual-layered DVD-9 (Disc 1), and one single-layered DVD-5 (Disc 2), but this is mitigated slightly by the fact that the first disc runs 3:22:42, while the second disc runs 1:55:03. DVD Bit Rate Viewer reports that the average video bitrate is 4.79 Mbps for the first disc, and 4.49 Mbps for the second disc. Both discs are apparently locked to Region 1 according to AnyDVD HD, and the film is presented in a 16:9 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation.

The film appears to have English credits. The audio is Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 kbps) (indicated as "English" on the disc) and the feature has white-font English subtitles burned into the picture.

Unfortunately, the break in the film seems to come mid-scene, and then the second DVD has copyright information, as well as a duplicate Locarno Film Festival tag once you choose to play the film from the menu. This last bit was very odd, and I can only put it down to Hamaguchi not having an intermission. If there is an intermission, then it must be a different point in the film. I will report back once I have gotten a chance to watch it entirely.

The only extra is the film's trailer (1:38, Dolby Digital 2.0), which is music-only with English credits. Bizarrely, while it appears on Disc 1, I cannot find it anywhere in the files on the actual disc. Eight .vob files all seem to be part of the film, and the only other video file appears to be the copyright/KimStim logo and the Disc Menu screen.

From what I saw, the presentation is okay for DVD, nothing revelatory, and about what I expected. If there is no intermission, then perhaps Hamaguchi should design one, as the film will be challenging to present on a single disc in any format. That said, I would still love to see the film presented on Blu-ray in a 2xBD-50 set with optional English subtitles and maybe some extras, perhaps by Arrow in the UK, or via a distributor in Japan. Still, I appreciate that the film is relatively obscure, and seems unlikely to reach the Blu-ray format, so Icarus/KimStim's DVD seems to be the way to go, at least for now.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#22 Post by Hopscotch » Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:05 am

Really looking forward to revisiting this. I had the good fortune to see it projected at the Harvard Film Archive last year and it blew me away.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#23 Post by longstone » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:13 pm

My copy arrived in the UK via Amazon US , spindles were broken but luckily the discs survived un-scratched,
It also happened to arrive on a day I was off work so I managed to watch the whole film pretty much in one sitting.
I didn’t know about it until this thread was started and so wasn’t sure what to expect but I agree with all the above posters
It’s excellent and didn’t feel too long at all. Initially I felt the first art centre workshop scene dragged on but when the film finished it felt like it had in the end been justified by later developments . The split between discs is sort of mid scene except it comes as a character is asleep then waking up so didn’t seem too annoying. I am pleased to have the film at all and the DVD quality seems perfectly acceptable.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#24 Post by McCrutchy » Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:30 am

Well, I'll be: A Japanese double Blu-ray set is being released on May 18th, 2018, with cast interviews called "Beyond Happy Hour" (38 min.) as bonus content. It is mentioned on the English section of the website here, and the Facebook announcement says it will have English subtitles for the main feature and extras!

You can buy it here at Amazon.

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Re: Happy Hour (Hamaguchi Ryusuke, 2015)

#25 Post by feckless boy » Sat Apr 21, 2018 2:45 pm

McCrutchy wrote:Well, I'll be: A Japanese double Blu-ray set is being released on May 18th, 2018, with cast interviews called "Beyond Happy Hour" (38 min.) as bonus content. It is mentioned on the English section of the website here, and the Facebook announcement says it will have English subtitles for the main feature and extras!

You can buy it here at Amazon.
Many thanks for the heads-up. Pre-ordered. That is a steep price even for a Japanese Blu-Ray, but I guess 5+hours of subtitling is expensive. Looking forward to a reasonably priced UK Blu-ray any day now - honestly a triple-dip wouldn't bother me if it meant this film got the audience it deserves.

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