Asako I & II

Less Rohmer or Rivette, more Chabrol if he made commercial romantic melodramas instead of Hitchcock riffs. Anyway, all three comparisons are probably reductive of Hamaguchi's specific aesthetic. But I really like how he plays with expected beats in unexpected ways, which is something I always associate with Chabrol.

The rewatch really clarified how precise his storytelling is—knowing what's coming, it's much easier to see how every scene has a very clear purpose in terms of building toward Asako's climactic decision. But gracefulness is just as important to him as clarity. You can sense that he's thinking about how to get each plot point across in the most natural, organic, spontaneous, unassuming way—the digressions feel very purposeful in that sense, giving the audience a couple moments to breathe before they are buffeted along to the next bit of the story. Sounds a bit basic, and maybe it is, but very few contemporary filmmakers do it as well.

I still cringe at the last lines of dialogue, but the film is so entertaining throughout that it doesn't matter that much. And I've come to accept it anyway—its only crime is being a little too direct, but it doesn't undermine any of the preceding material.