“Drive My Car”, the magnetic road movie by Ryusuke Hamaguchi


Few filmmakers can rejoice in having, in the same year, two films selected in competition at the biggest festivals. This is the case of the Japanese Ryusuke Hamaguchi, born in 1978, filmmaker of movement and intimacy, with a recurring motif of loss and disappearance. His work, discovered in France in the mid-2010s, notably with Senses (2015) and Asako I and II (2018), flourishes in this year 2021: after the Berlinale, where his film Chance tales and other fantasies won the Silver Bear in March (grand jury prize), here he is in Cannes where his last feature film, Drive My Car, competes for the Palme d’Or. Unveiled on Sunday 11 July, this “ribbon” film, which unfolds an almost three-hour story, is one of the gems of this 74e edition of the festival.

Read the portrait: Ryusuke Hamaguchi and the memory of the disaster

Adapted from the eponymous short story by Haruki Murakami, which opens the collection Men without women (Belfond, 2017), Drive My Car undoubtedly accomplishes in the most successful and overwhelming way the aesthetic quest of the filmmaker since his beginnings: to circulate speech and words (sometimes invisible) between the characters, like a red thread in the labyrinth, in an attempt to get as close as possible to the truth. Before capturing the attention of moviegoers, Ryusuke Hamaguchi worked for a long time in an artisanal way, focusing on dialogue to instill feelings. Inspired by Eric Rohmer (1920-2010), the Japanese filmmaker also claims the influence of Mikio Naruse (1905-1969), John Cassavetes (1929-1989) or even Kiyoshi Kurosawa, born in 1955, his master at the University of Tokyo.

Read also: “Asako I & II”: eternal renewal in love

Drive My Car can be considered like a pendulum road movie, between home and work (at least initially), the plot of which progresses over the back and forth of the main character: Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), director and actor. We must briefly present a few paintings from the film, to understand how this artist finds himself, one day, to bring a stranger on board.

Symbolic displacement

Yusuke isn’t too keen on giving up the wheel of his red sports coupe, which he carefully parks in the basement of a modern building. The film opens in the contemporary apartment he shares with his wife, TV screenwriter Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima). They have just made love and Oto tells, at the same time as she improvises, a story that runs through her head for an erotic series. The story of a teenage girl, in love with a boy from her high school, who finds a way to break into her house to inspect her room and leave some suggestive objects there. Yusuke enjoys listening to these stories in construction, which are otherwise a powerful driver of their sexual relationship – a steamy scene, subtly filmed.

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