a poetic journey to mourn a love


Night is falling. A couple on a bed. The woman speaks. She addresses the man lying beside her. She tells him a story, an improvised erotic tale which we will discover will serve as a sexual aid, fuel for physical love. This is the mysterious introduction to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s new feature film, shaping up to be the adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami. He is Yusuke Kafuku, a theater director; she is Oto, his wife, an actress. Yusuke discovers, a few days later, that Oto had an affair with a young actor. He doesn’t tell her about it. One fine evening, she dies, struck down by an attack.

These are the beginnings, rich in unresolved questions, of a journey that is both concrete and mental. That of a character struck by an irreparable loss, dedicating himself to a task of which we do not know if it will be consoling or revealing. Yusuke Kafuku is indeed offered to go up for a theater festival in Hiroshima Uncle Vanya, by Chekhov. His wife’s young lover is part of the cast.

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The beauty of Drive My Car (presented in competition, in July, at the Cannes Film Festival where he won the screenplay prize) lies in his way of giving flesh to a series of abstractions and purely theoretical devices, of using all kinds of elements of the medium cinema – the time, the dialogues, the language, the fiction – to make them release their autonomous sensuality and to make, through an operation of decoupling, the instrument of a singular truth. The catalyst for all this will be the hero’s meeting with the young woman who serves as his driver during the weeks of rehearsal. Misaki is reserved, almost fierce, far removed, it seems, from the “artistic” preoccupations of the man she leads.

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And it is during the frequent trips that they have to make together between the hotel and the theater, during which, often, Kafuku listens to the recorded voice of his late wife, that the two characters will not only get to know each other. both but above all to know themselves, to state the traumas that built them. This discovery will finally be experienced, in the last part of a film which surreptitiously turns into road-movie, thanks to a trip from Hiroshima to end in the snowy province of Hokkaido.

Fragmented language

We know since Journey to Italie (1954), by Roberto Rossellini, the role that the car journey plays in the definition of a certain cinematographic modernity and of which Drive My Car constitutes a new variation. But before the blindness and wounds of the two main protagonists are revealed, before the conditions for mourning have reached them, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film will also have had time to question itself, poetically, just as much. on its own rhetorical weapons than on the singular and opaque beauty of individuals.

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