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Film Review #26: RING WANDERING

Written by Elisabeth Fong

There is a certain magic that happens when old pictures are colourised – the past suddenly becomes more recognisable, it becomes steeped in reality, and we feel more connected to a moment. Maskazu Kaneko’s Ring Wandering brings the Japanese past into full colour, making it seem so real you can carry it on your back, you can joke with it, have dinner with it. It’s a tender, personal and quiet way of understanding our histories.

The film follows Sosuke (Sho Kasamatsu), a manga artist, as he tries to find an accurate representation of the extinct Japanese wolf for his manga, in which his main character seeks to duel the last surviving Japanese wolf. Sosuke, a construction worker, finds an animal skull buried in Tokyo’s earth, allowing him to meet Midori (Junko Abe), a lively and curious woman who is looking for her lost dog.

Ring Wandering does a good job of telling the story of a country that has changed rapidly – a man in 1905 hunting the last Japanese Wolf at the time of the Russo-Japanese War confronting his loss, the true catastrophe of World War II, and the buried stories from the Tokyo Olympics construction boom. The well-designed settings do a great job of guiding the audience through very different time periods and aesthetics, spanning more than a century. The night scenes, in particular, have an atmosphere so mysterious there seems to be an air of magic. The end result is like a beautiful dream, suspended in time.

As Sosuke and Midori search for her dog, their chemistry blossoms and this makes the film a particularly endearing one. In an especially tender moment when Midori is bidding farewell to Sosuke at the end of the night, she keeps following him, distracting him and continuing the conversation as if she doesn’t want him to leave, not wanting to break the spell. Sosuke doesn’t seem to want to leave, either, and instead stares at Midori, trying to sear her image into his memory.

Watching this film put me in a reflective mood, as most quiet films tend to do. When landscapes change, so do our memories of those places and stories. Perhaps no other country has gone through as much change as Singapore had since independence, at least geographically. The quick developments and changes to landscapes causes me to disconnect from my grandparent’s Singapore, and it’s easier to forget that Singapore is also full of layered histories.

Ring Wandering is now playing at The Projector.

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This review is published as an extension of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye with support from the Singapore Film Society.

About the Author: When not reading letterboxd’ reviews or watching fan-made videos, Elisabeth talks about movies and tv shows on her podcast Critical Cliches.

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About the Movie:
Directed by: Masakazu Kaneko
Cast: Shô Kasamatsu, Junko Abe, Ken Yasuda, Reiko Kataoka, Hatsunori Hasegawa

Year: 2022
Duration: 1h 44min
Language: Japanese (with English subtitles)
Advisory: PG13

Synopsis: In central Tokyo, a young man aspires to be a manga artist. His current work is about a battle between a hunter and a Japanese wolf. He bumps into a mysterious woman who is looking for her dog that ran away. They wander through a quiet town together, traveling through time into Tokyo’s past.

Ring Wandering achieved a special mention at the 37th Warsaw Film Festival: Ecumenical Jury Commendation Award, and a Grand Prix at the 52nd International Film Festival of India (Goa): Golden Peacock Award.

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