Japanese entry into competition is another highlight for rising director Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Deadline
Since his first film in 2008, Passion, Japanese director / screenwriter Ryusuke Hamaguchi continues to make an impact on the global film scene. His successes at various festivals include 2018, when he first competed in Cannes with Asako I & II, and earlier this year at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival, where his Wheel of fortune and fantasy won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize.
Proving that he is as prolific as he is talented, the filmmaker is back in the main Cannes competition, where his latest film, Drive my car just had its world premiere today.
While this brooding, introspective drama was the longest film in the competition at just 3 hours, I never felt its length, despite the opening credits only being 40 minutes after the movie started. Obviously, Hamaguchi (who has been rightly compared to current Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda, as both seem drawn to deeply humanistic cinema), has his own style, as evidenced by this story of long-standing secrets, of regrets and revelations widely unveiled while on the road in a moving car. It’s based on Haruki Murakami’s short story and turned into a long but still engaging Hamaguchi film.
The Match Factory features Murakami’s adaptation of “Drive My Car”, the next film from Cannes and Berlin director Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Centered on director and actor Yusuki Kauku (a stunning Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his relationship with his wife Oto (Reike Kirishima), a screenwriter who comes up with some of her best ideas in bed with her husband, as seen in the scenes opening of the film, she also has some secrets that she keeps concerning her frequent relationships with other men.
In fact, we see Yusuki sneaking into one of those sexual encounters and just as sneaking out without making her presence known. Still, there is clearly love between them, and it only intensifies for Yusuki when Oto suddenly dies.
All of this happens before that first 40-minute credits roll, and after that the focus is on Yusuki, who two years later still mourns the loss of Oto, but continues his career when asked to direct a production of Uncle Vanya (clearly chosen for a reason, like the play in a movie here) for a theater festival in Hiroshima.
As we saw in the first part of the film, there are a lot of scenes that take place behind the wheel of the car. But complications arise for Yusuki after driving to Hiroshima, when festival officials announce that they have a driver who will be responsible for driving him around town.
He hesitates, saying he will drive himself, but they say that for legal and insurance reasons all performers must have a driver and can not drive themselves, to which he replies that it is while driving that he does his most important preparation, and this is the main reason why he requested accommodation one hour from the theater rather than the nearby hotel where the actors will stay.
He loses the argument and meets Misaki (Toko Miura), an independent spirit who will be his driver for the duration of the play. As rehearsals go on, the past and present collide, and many slowly reveal themselves in Yusuki’s interactions with Misaki, as well as with the cast members, including the surprising choice of a young actor named. Takatsuki (an excellent Masaki Okada) to play the lead role. Just as interesting as Yusuki’s conversations with Misaki, his interactions with this actor, whom he suspects to have been one of those sleeping with his late wife, are fascinating, because they go to the heart of acting. (one of the main obsessions of the film), the search for the truth, and in the introspection Yusuki resisted.
Exceptionally well written, with cutting-edge insights into love, loss, marriage, grief, the truths on and off stage, and what we may – or may not – know about those closest to us , Drive my car takes his time to explore all of his themes, with the idea of being the most vulnerable and open, especially in a moving vehicle.
The performances are exceptional all around, but Nishijima and Miura really connect and make this three hour ride an interesting experience. The supporting towers of Kirishima, Jin Daeyeon, and Park Yurim are also top notch, as is Eiko Ishibashi’s beautiful musical score. The Match Factory manages worldwide sales.