Film review: “Drive My Car” repackages sentimentality

Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura in Drive my car (Janus Films)

A Japanese import repackages sentimentality for moviegoers.

Dnot confuse Drive my car, the most acclaimed film of the year, starring “Drive My Car” by The Beatles. This 1965 song broadcast the excitement of fame, commercialized sex, and isolation that The Beatles experienced and that the whole world saw but, perhaps, they themselves couldn’t appreciate. Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi takes the title literally for a three-hour demonstration on bourgeois alienation.

Japanese Theater Dean Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), seen performing Waiting for Godot, and his screenwriter wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) play communication games that include infidelity and impersonal sex. Years later, the guilt continues in Yusuke’s artistic residency in Hiroshima, where he is tasked with mounting an experimental production of Chekhov’s work. Uncle Vanya. In this game, Hamaguchi awards points to the audience for catching more cross-cultural references.

Initially, the various deceptions seem to revolve around something about modern, selfish intimacy where verbalized sex (performed on a vinyl record playing classical music) marks the pretext and isolation in a marriage of artists from the world. middle class. This kills critics who remember the voiceover narration in Alain Resnais’ 1960 classic Hiroshima My Love, but Hamaguchi is not a poetic filmmaker, he is – pardon the pun – pedestrian.

Everything takes time in Drive my car because Hamaguchi’s intentions are so obvious and literal. Yusuke, his open-faced hospital bosses, and motley cast behave exactly as they seem, perhaps out of a lack of cultural tact, but with no hidden intentions or dramatic surprises. He provided a silent young driver Watari (Toko Miura) who is as introverted and damaged as expected. The young actor he plays Vanya (Masaki Okada) confirms our first vision of him as conceited and alarmingly sincere. Yusuke learns to accept and sympathize with their peculiarities because it is really a staging of Uncle Vanya.

Hamaguchi sidesteps the themes of Chekhov’s moral deference and spiritual weariness, but he does not convey this observation in the manner of Robert Altman, Jonathan Demme, or even Kon Ichikawa. The revenge of an actor do. What may seem ineffably Japanese (given the hints of global guilt when Yusuke and Watari visit the Hiroshima cenotaph) is Chekhovian, therefore universal.

But I’m reluctant to give Hamaguchi Chekhovian any laurels because his measured style resembles Chekhov when done poorly. Drive my car is the opposite of animated; it’s as brooding as Watari herself. Yusuke must learn to forgive his working class sadness. He ends up sitting next to her in the passenger seat – it’s like Green book for art lovers.

The exaggerated praise of Drive my car is another indication of the decline in film culture – critics have found a film to match their own unease. The end of Uncle Vanya is always on the move – Louis Malle made it happen and more by Vania on 42nd street – so the adaptation of Hamaguchi does not bring anything new. Adding a deaf-mute actress to deliver Sonya’s famous closing lines is shameless, but PC critics don’t respond to the beautiful Christian faith, only to this production’s emphasis on pity. Or as Yusuke sums it up, “Everything will be fine. “

It comes after Hamaguchi paid off her debt to millennial nihilism when the driver reveals that she was abused by her sadistic, schizophrenic mother and left her languishing in revenge. His confession arouses the guilt that Yusuke kept hidden. At this point, it’s obvious that Hamaguchi should have focused on the driver. In keeping with today’s lousy dramaturgy, it tells the wrong story and the stuff of “art”.

An actor says: “Chekhov’s text comes to me and moves my body which was stuck. When you say his lines, it drags the real you. But Hamaguchi is not going for that kind of transformation. Its anemic style is reminiscent of old art and essay favorites such as Ye-Ye and The secret of the grain, which were admired by critics who didn’t want cinema to be emotional and overwhelming. They don’t prefer Chekhov, they prefer Chekhov hijacked.

Armond White, cultural critic, writes about films for National exam and is the author of New post: The Prince’s Chronicles. His new book, Making Spielberg Great Again: The Steven Spielberg Chronicles, is available on Amazon.

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