DRIVE MY CAR POSTERThe first Japanese film to be nominated for Best Picture did not disappoint. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film kind of blew me away. It is filled with emotion, but it is also filled with humor.. something I didn’t expect.
The whole movie is a vibe and it’s a vibe I was not prepared for. It explores grief and how we deal with it. But it is not overly sad or depressing. It uses art as a vehicle to examine grief and guilt. How do we move on.. or do we ever. How long does it take and what is the trigger that could influence that movement toward acceptance and rid yourself of blame.
It’s kind of hard to talk about the film without spoiling several parts or all of it. One think I will say is that the lead character, the theater director Yûsuke Kafuku, played very well by Hidetoshi Nishijima is hired to direct a multi-lingual version of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. A young woman is hired to be his driver.. and that’s where the title comes from. The is beautifully done. I was worried about a 3 hour long movie with subtitles. But it didn’t feel that long. I loved all the characters, even with their flaws. The look of the film is wonderful. Hamaguchi and his cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya made a very interesting choice. It is not that the film is without color. But the only really bright color is the car referenced in the title. It is a fire engine red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo. I always wanted to drive one of those.. but I digress. The rest of the film is a palette of blacks, grays and pastels. Even in long shots you see the red car stand out on the road among all others.
They also don’t feel the need to bring the camera into everyone’s face in every conversation. It adds to the feeling of being disconnected and loneliness.
The actors are all wonderful. The language/subtitles can sometimes be a barrier to emotion, but not here. I felt everything I was supposed to feel.
Really there is nothing bad I can say about the movie. It would probably help to have knowledge of Vanya because I’m sure there are cues or clues to the larger meaning of the story in that choice.
Parasite broke the ground for Asian filmmakers at the Oscars and the Academy has honored Mexican directors a lot in recent years. I could see Hamaguchi walking away with best director over Jane Campion and Steven Spielberg. It would not surprise me. Whatever accolades Drive My Car gets are richly deserved. It’s rare that we get these type of adult stories anymore. So if giving this film one or more trophies allows that to happen, then I’m all for it.

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