Rikiya Imaizumi has proven himself to be a great Japanese director. Yet, his work remains too underrated. He did not only deliver the amazing romance narrative, Just Only Love (2019), the touching queer narrative His (2020), but also the phenomenal Over The Town (2021). Little nights, Little Love, based on Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (2014), a collection of short stories by Kotaro Isaka, is another one of his romance narratives.
One day, after an incident at work, Sato (Haruma Miura) is forced to go on the street and gather missing data by interviewing people with a questionnaire. Having no luck in successfully inviting passers-by to fill in the questionnaire, his mind starts wandering, first to the big screen showing a boxing-camp, then to Saito-san (Taichi Komada), a street artist performing a mellow song. Suddenly, a woman named Saki Honma (Mikako Tabe) stands next to him.
Minako (Shihori Kanjiya), a hairdresser, is interested in finding love but is unable, due to being focused on her work, to make time to encounter the right person. Kasumi Itabashi (Megumi), a client of hers, tells her that she should meet her little brother, Manabu (Eiki Narita). As Minako is unable to express her doubts to Kasumi, she receives a sudden call from him.
Little Nights, Little Love is a light-hearted narrative that succeeds in touching upon various elements in the game of love in a touching and heart-warming way. Imaizumi delivers, first and foremost, an exploration of what makes the first encounter between two subjects special. Imaizumi elegantly underlines that, within such fleeting moment, something happens within a subject. Simply said, the body-image that caresses the eye has a phallic effect. This phallic effect, which is nothing other than the sudden shock that accompanies the realization that this other’s body possesses the agalma, entraps the desire of the subject. Henceforth, the bodily image of the other has become the ‘deceptive’ object-goal of one’s desire.
Yet, that is not all. Little Nights, Little Love also underlines that the beauty of the first encounter is retrospectively determined by the subject’s current position. The first encounter can only attain its subjective and emotional importance by the effect it has had – i.e. by how it impacted the trajectory of the subject and how it transformed his relational fabric. This is, as Imaizumi elegantly highlights in Little Nights, Little Love, not only true for ‘romantic’ encounters, but also for other kind of encounters (Narra-note 1).
Little Nights, Little Love also explores the fact that our relational functioning is littered with miscommunications, obstacles, stumbles, and riddles. The narrative touches upon the subjective injuries of relational malfunctioning, the hope and (in)ability to overcome these relational conflicts and re-calibrate the intersubjective bond, the shrivelling of the phallic effect within romantic relations, as well as the puzzling riddle of what binds two subjects together.
What makes Little Nights, Little Love such an enjoyable experience is the narrative structure. Imaizumi’s narrative is not only marked by elegant repetitions, but is also structured around three similar events which succeed, due to characters gambling on the outcome of these events, in radically changing the path of the subject and rewriting his relational structure. Subjects either passively subjected themselves to this outcome or (try to) fuel their subsequent acts with the energy that oozes from the event or with the joy caused by its result. The fact that such kind of magical thinking determines the paths of her characters does not only create a believable tapestry of subjective acts, but also reveals how the subject, within the game of love and romance, attempts to cope with the lingering presence of his lack.
The composition of Little Nights, Little Love is fully dedicated in supporting the performances. Imaizumi in fact shows, with his composition, that he fully grasps the fact that romance-narratives only work well when the performances of the cast can engage and touch the spectator. His compositional simplicity as well as his reliance on static moments is solely aimed at granting the cast the time to breathe life into the emotional fabric of their respective character and give their interactions a charming genuineness.
The cast has, luckily, not failed in fulfilling the task Imaizumi has set for them. The characters that populate this narrative do not only feel authentic, but the emotional dimension of their vocalized signifiers and communicative silences are, due to the compositional focus on facial expressions, is able to touch the spectator. Establishing such a shared space, where the emotions of the characters can sensibly echo within the spectator, ensures that the spectator remains engaged in the various little romantic stories that structure Little Nights, Little Love.
That does not mean that Imaizumi’s composition lacks visual pleasure. The softness of the colour-palette and the subtlety of the lightning-design ensures that his composition is pleasing to the eye. The enjoyment of Little Nights, Little Love is further supported by thoughtfully applied musical accompaniment.
Little Nights, Little Love is a very enjoyable and heart-warming romance narrative. Imaizumi’s narrative succeeds in touching the spectator by blending an effective narrative structure with a composition that puts emphasis on the communicative power of expressions. It is, as a matter of fact, only because the cast succeeds to give their characters their flesh and blood that a warm and satisfying mellow feeling can spread within spectator.
Narra-note 1: Imaizumi illustrates that the importance of the encounter is defined by its effect by revealing how the encounter of the deaf boy (Tsubasa Nakagawa) with Manabu Ono (Eiki Narita), the famous boxer, affected him.