Drive my car, a dizzying summit of delicacy [critique]

Ryusuke Hamaguchi adapts Murakami and signs one of the peaks of the competition. Three hours of absolute grace.

Here is our review of Drive my Car, who received the Screenplay Award at the last Cannes Film Festival.

At almost half-time in a competition where films have so far tended to be rather short, the arrival of a three-hour film is a daring gesture. Especially on a Sunday afternoon, at siesta time, when the sun is beating down on the Croisette. But those who defied these a priori yesterday were rewarded a hundredfold. Because as much to say it from the outset, the new film of the director of Senses and Asako I and II is a pure wonder. A major work of a crazy romantic, in which precisely some 180 minutes pass like a dream, over the pieces of an exciting puzzle, where the Japanese filmmaker pushes his art of storytelling a little further. already at work in his previous films.

Ryusuke Hamaguchi is confronted here with a short story from his compatriot Haruki Murakami (whose adaptation of Burnt barns had given birth, coupled with a dose of The Incendiary by Faulkner, to the sublime Burning, presented here at Cannes in 2018) with as central character Yūsuke Kafuku, a theater director whose specialty is to produce great classics (here, Waiting for Godot then Uncle Vanya) by bringing together actors of all nationalities that they each express themselves in their own language. The prologue of Drive my car (the credits only arrive after 45 minutes without it passing for a fussy style exercise) takes the time to install this character and in particular his relationship with his wife Oto, TV scriptwriter, whom he will discover, one day when he comes home from a festival earlier, she cheats on him. Yūsuke closes the bedroom door where he overheard his antics with his actor lover and leaves without her seeing him. But soon after, Oto dies suddenly without him having had time to put this subject on the table.

How to grieve in the face of a situation that has remained in abeyance forever? This is what will be used to tell the next 2h15 when Yūsuke goes to ride Tcheckhov in a festival with his antique Saab to which he holds as the apple of his eye and in which he has the unchanging ritual of listening. on his radio cassette recordings of all the dialogues of his upcoming play. A reading where … his wife gave him the answer. Every day and every evening, on his way to and from the place where he is staying at the theater, he will therefore hear the voice of the one whose disappearance makes him inconsolable, led by a mutic young woman (rule imposed by the theater festival to avoid any concern for insurance) which will, over the days and journeys, become familiar to him.

Drive my car will then open up to the outside world, multiply the characters (a Korean assistant and his deaf wife whom Yūsuke cast for his play, his wife’s lover, a TV star, whom he also wanted to direct, a young actress who falls in love with the latter), once again take the time to tell the intimate story of each one without ever losing sight of the backbone of his story: this long work of mourning. Everything here is delicate and dizzying. Without downtime or a hint of rush. Each mini-story deserves a film in itself, but it is precisely the combination of all of these that create the ever overwhelming power of this fresco of incredible sensitivity that we have a mad desire to see again as soon as the book appears. word end. With the feeling that each dive into this work of magnificent grace will offer a different journey. A master stroke.

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi: “Tchekhov helped me a lot in writing Drive my car!”

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