Cinema, in general, shines more when it talks to us face to face, when it exposes common themes with which it is easy to identify. The great horror movies are great for this very reason, because through supernatural phenomena they are helping us to face (or at least visualize) our greatest fears or problems. The fear of being lost in a forest at night, the fear of being chased by someone with the worst intentions one can imagine, being robbed in your own home or being attacked even in your own dreams. All these are situations that, no matter how much they are transferred to the cinema in an exaggerated, artificial or gimmicky way, click in our heads as they are experiences that anyone has been able to think of. The greatest example I find of this style is Akira Kurosawa, one of the most humanistic directors in history who, regardless of the setting (a large bulk of his films are in feudal Japan), always managed to reflect on the good and bad of human being connecting seamlessly with the viewer. I’m not going to say that Ryūsuke Hamaguchi is the new Akira Kurosawa, but ‘Drive My Car’ It has reminded me a lot of AK’s speech due to the naturalness of its scenes and the apparently inconspicuous work behind the cameras, full of great details in reality.
‘Drive My Car’ it is part of sensitive and sophisticated Japanese cinema. That type of cinema to which many attribute that it is empty, that it counts nothing and that it is highly pretentious. Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s film lasts almost three hours, so the easy criticism makes itself: “I can’t get to the end, the drowsiness invades me from the beginning. What a mania to lengthen films so much. It mainly happens to those in which that the director doesn’t know how to tell a story or it lacks the slightest interest”. I didn’t have to search very hard to find such an opinion and since it was nominated for an Oscar for best film on social media, it’s the general trend. I have seen award-winning Asian productions at prestigious festivals that are pretentiousness materialized in film, like the Taiwanese one ‘The taste of watermelon’ that starts being curious to become unbearable. But the case of ‘Drive My Car’ it’s very different. They are three hours well filled with content, where each character has their own journey and the viewer his own, the one where his feelings take him. Its duration is part of its brilliance when it comes to dealing with issues where what is not new but how is capable of shaping the drama in a wide and meandering way where coldness and regret gradually approach. The script by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe is wonderful. Adapts a short story by Haruki Murakami as he already did ‘burning’ by Lee Chang-Dong, two very different films but in which certain points in common can be seen in terms of the magnetism and the enigmatic nature of their stories. ‘Drive My Car’ It has a brilliant 40-minute prologue that marks the starting point of the story that we will see in the remaining 140 minutes. It is not that the prologue is expendable or that it is not part of the story, but it is essential to start from here to understand and feel the protagonist of the film during the rest of the footage. Before that, you are fully introduced to the fictional intra-story that takes place in the preparations for the play that has the feature film as its epicenter, where reality and fiction will merge on more than one occasion, being an exercise in strange metafiction. , difficult and vital to enhance the discourse of the film. When the opening credits roll after all this time and you start to put the pieces together, that’s the first sign that you’re watching a great movie. There are no flashbacks or filler scenes to break up the steady rhythm or hinder the flow of your narrative. Both writers do a great job building very universal and complete characters to whom they add layers scene after scene, making them seem alive, they cross the screen. It is the cast who is in charge of giving life to this group of characters led by the protagonist Yusuke Kafuku, played by a bestial Hidetoshi Nishijima in the role of his life. Every look, every gesture and how much he counts on his expressionless face ends up in a spectacular containment job, of an amazing naturalness and supreme charisma with simply his presence. Tôko Miura is the co-protagonist and the least natural character of all, the most cartoonish because of her way of dressing and her exaggerated impassiveness, being the great merit of her being able to make you forget about it thanks to an excellent voice work. The relationship between the two of them is one of the most worked points of the film and another example of how she is able to get gold out of something so hackneyed. Masaki Okada plays the third key character in this story and he has had the most delicate job, where every detail is important. The duo made by him and Hidetoshi Nishijima gives us one of the best scenes in the whole set. In my first viewing I didn’t see anything special about Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s direction. The group fascinated me, but I did not appreciate his work behind the cameras. It was the second time when I realized that the elegance and naturalness that he has at all times does not reveal the large number of visual resources that he uses. They are subtle, we are facing a director who puts the sum of all the parts ahead of individual praise. It’s a great direction, but not in the same way as George Miller’s in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. There you can quickly see the greatness of each shot and how vibrant each scene is thanks to an overwhelming audiovisual display. Here Ryūsuke Hamaguchi gives great importance to objects such as mirrors or the protagonist’s own car, giving them meaning and not simply being part of the setting. He has a gift for creating immersive conversations between characters. The one that looks like one more shot of two characters looking at the horizon is actually a fabulous composition in which just the image and a line of dialogue is enough to exchange sensations with the viewer. Another scene that takes place at a random meal ends up being the most beautiful and hopeful moment of the film as it talks about how despite the chiaroscuros that life has, you can and should be happy. Like these there are a thousand more details. It is difficult for another film to come out this year that surpasses ‘Drive My Car’. I can understand who does not connect with their characters and who finds it too heavy. But to say that it is an empty film is directly not having seen it or not having finished it. If length is an issue, remember that a handful of big-budget action movies are only 15-30 minutes shorter, and three episodes of your favorite series already steal three hours of your time. Time is relative, but ‘Drive My Car’ It is one hundred percent sure that you are not going to waste it