While people may know Yutaro Nakamura from his appearances in Tokyo Tribe (2014) and Death Row Family (2017), most people might be surprised that he has already directed a small oeuvre of films. In 2021, for that matter, he did not direct one, but two films, A New Wind Blows and Bitter Sweet Candy. Both screened at this year’s Osaka Asian Film Festival.
New Year’s Eve,Hikari (Hikaru Saiki), while having dinner with her friend Kotaro (Yutaro Nakamura), hears someone singing nearby. Attracted by the beauty of the singing voice, she decides, much to the dislike of her friend Yujiro, to meet this singer. The same night, he confesses his love for her. Hikari is dumbstruck. He silently apologizes.
Not that much later, Hikari succeeds in breaking the awkward atmosphere between them by recognizes her old friend Yujiro (Yujiro Hara), who now works an Uber Eats driver, on the street. Having missed the last train, Hikari proposes to Kotaro and Yujiro to go to her former apartment, where her friend, Anzu (An Ogawa) lives, and ask her friend to spend the night there. Yet, the night they spend together goes awfully wrong.
A New Wind Blows, a narrative with a subtle absurd flavour, is all about relational conflict, about the relational confrontation that the act of speaking, the interpretation of a certain acts, or the act of desiring that underpins certain vocalized signifiers can cause. Yet, in a certain sense, most relational conflict in Nakamura’s film is function of the romance, be it not yet attained (i.e. Kotaro’s failed love-confession) or already established (i.e. the relationship between Anzu and Takaya).
Most of the relational frictions in A New Wind Blows are function of one character, Takaya. Whenever he speaks or acts – i.e. reproaching his girlfriend from being too close with Yuijiro, his signifiers or gestures evoke a certain jealousy or imply a certain insecurity. Takaya’s jealousy, in fact, depends on an insecurity we should call phallic. Takaya’s jealousy and the (externalized and internalized) violence it engenders are function of a conscious phallic awareness, of a certain unvocalized fear to lose his phallic position for Anzu, to lose his position of being Anzu’s object-to-desire.
Kotaro, another important character, does not suffer from dwarfism, but because he has dwarfism, because of the way the people around him treat him. While he is a speaking subject, he is not treated by others, like by Anzu, as the subject he is. Because of his dwarfism, because he stands out in the social field as image, the others hinder his fluid integration as subject within the social field – i.e. he is not taken seriously. They joke about him while disregarding his feelings. Yet, he tries to go along with it and laugh with them, but his laughs are marked by a certain painful bitterness and a sensible discomfort.
While this lightheartedness proves that Kotaro Nakamura can put himself into perspective and use himself for a subtle lighthearted effect, he also vividly echoes the very truth of his existence. Kotaro holds up a mirror to the spectator to confront them with the violent effects of the imaginary field, a field that emphasizes his oddness but erases, due to this emphasis, the subject that lies beyond. In this sense, Kotaro’s confession asks Hikari if she can see beyond the image and love him for who he, as subject, is. Yet, Hikari fails to answer his confession. But can Hikari, before the story of A New Wind Blows ends, give Kotaro an answer to his romantic desire?
The composition of A New Wind Blows stands out due to simplicity and its reliance on temporally long shots, shots that are either static or offer a balanced blend fixed and dynamic (e.g. tracking) moments. The cinematographical simplicity works well because it lets the naturalness of the performances and the natural flow of interactions these performances stage truly shine. Moreover, this simplicity also allows Nakamura, by focusing on facial expressions of certain characters, to vividly underline the impact that certain interactions have on certain characters. Nakamura’s use of music further strengthens the lightheartedness of his narrative and gives his narrative a subtle musical flavour (Music-note 1).
A New Wind Blows is, without a doubt, a great film by Nakamura. He does not only utilize himself to touch upon the societal truth he as subject is subjected to – a subjective statement by the director, but reveals, via the lighthearted absurd turns in his narrative, that the madness of the male subject is often function of a woman, of a woman that unknowingly puts the by a man assumed phallic position of being desired radically into question.
Music-note 1: The singing sequence is the bar is marked by a technical flaw; the singing does not match the movement of the lips. While it’s not a major problem – it does not by any means destroy the charming atmosphere of the sequence, the mismatch between lips and voice is very noticeable.