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  Drive My Car Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Yeah
Year: 2021
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Stars: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yoon, Sonia Yuan, Ahn Hwitae, Perry Dizon, Satoko Abe, Hiroko Matsuda, Toshiaki Inomata, Takako Yamamura
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is an actor and theatre director who is married to Oto (Reiki Kirishima), a screenwriter who lately has had an unusual way of working. After they have had sex, she will start with a stream of consciousness ramble that she tries to work into shape as a plotline for her latest screenplay for television, and he helps by remembering what she has said (her memory can grow a little hazy). The latest excursion into fiction has been about a teenage girl who breaks into the house of her crush, and investigates his room, even going as far as masturbating there. Yet Kafuku doesn't hear the ending...

How do you feel about a film that doesn't run its opening credits sequence until the forty minute mark, and still has two hours and twenty minutes to go? And a lot of the story is taken up with scenes of rehearsals for Anton Chekov's classic play Uncle Vanya? Then most of the rest of it is taken up with the lead character being driven to and from various destinations, because he wanted to rehearse with a tape of his wife's voice, so the journey has to be as long as possible for him to absorb the dialogue and meanings? If you're thinking that you cannot conceive of anything more tedious, then Drive My Car was not for you.

If, on the other hand, you liked a film you could really ruminate over, tease out its meanings and feel enriched by its well-cultivated perspective on the big old thing we call life, then you were going to get along with it a lot better, and indeed director Ryusuke Hamaguchi's adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami did strike a chord in the cognoscenti, exactly the kind of material you could recommend at a dinner party once the atmosphere grew rarefied enough. Therefore a polarising effect was to be expected, though you could go further and ponder what film or item of culture did not have a polarising effect in the twenty-first century.

However, Drive My Car did appear to be pandering to a certain elite, at least in its marketing, though when or if you watched it, you would understand there was a point to that. Maybe the biggest stumbling block was that there was a lot here that was a bit, how to put it, weird, from Oto only able to write once she is in a post-coital glow therefore she takes plenty of lovers to keep those ideas coming as well as herself, to the revelation of the backstory of Kafuku's chauffeuse Misaki (Toko Miura) which is all to do with people being the sum of their stories, though if you had a story like hers you may be better keeping it to yourself or sharing it with a therapist. All the way through we were expected to stroke our chins and nod sagely.

Yet consider the rehearsals for the play, which do not look like the greatest of nights out are planned at the theatre. For some reason (revenge? Guilt?) Kafuku casts the young hothead who cuckolded him as the lead Uncle Vanya, despite the kid being decades too young and Kafuku being the perfect age for the role. He says it's because Chekov terrifies him, so he doesn't wish to engage with the text that closely, to which we reply, why direct it, then? There was a lot of behaviour here that we were meant to take as read was perfectly normal and offering insight into our lives, but while there were some pleasing enough quirks, much of the manner in which it asked to be taken seriously was all in the heavily reserved tone. Look past the subdued manner in which they interact, it admittedly made for a relaxing watch until you began wondering what the Hell this lot were thinking behaving this way. That was kind of the point, we have mysteries as well as stories and they shape us too, but they could have told us that in half the time. Music by Eiko Ishibashi.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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