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Drive My Car: Japan’s Most Acclaimed Film Since Kurosawa’s Dreams Is An Exasperating Gem

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Drive My Car (Japanese  with  English subtitles, Streaming on Mubi from 1 April)

Starring  Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tōko Miura,Masaki Okada ,Reika Kirishima

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Directed by  Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: *** ½

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Is  Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive  My Car   the most vital Japanese  film since  Akira Kurosawa’s  Dreams?  More importantly, is Hamaguchi the most important  Japanese  filmmaker since Kurosawa?  The  world’s critics’  community  seems  to thinks so:  his other 2021  film Wheel Of Fortune & Fantasy is in my opinion  a superior work , but  the chances  of  Drive My Car winning the  Oscar  for  best foreign film are  pegged at almost-there.

Indeed  Drive  My Car is something we have never seen  before in  cinema  of  any language. It is cryptic and compelling, exhilarating and  yet exasperating in its refusal to let us  into  the  characters’ inner world.

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Really, we can only guess at what our protagonist, a  filmmaker  named  Yūsuke Kafuku is  getting at. Is  he  lunging for  immortality through his work? It doesn’t look like it. Throughout  the 3 hours of playing time  Yusuke  seems disaffected from his  surroundings, a  state  of  ‘being there but not being there’ which is further compounded by  Yusuke’s wife Oto(Reika Kirishima)’s auto-eroticism.  Oto conjures  stories  during orgasm which her  husband is supposed to memorize  during their love-making  as she forgets her  stories the  next morning.

In the  midst of all this  ruminative  creative  conceit, Yusuke is detected with  partial blindness, just after he catches  hif wife with another man in their bedroom(after a missed flight, the best fictional  alibi for proving infidelity since Man invented the motion picture and the  airplane).

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Then Oto dies.

I thought this  was the end  of the  movie. But as  Karen Carpenter once reminded us, we’ve  only just begun.And to hammer in the  fact that what we’ve seen so  far is just the prelude, the director plays the credit titles at this   point of  his linear but loopy narrative , when  the inwardly-grieving Yusuke proceeds  to Hiroshima  to direct a  stage version of Chekhov’s Uncle  Vanya.

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Yusuke  is assigned a  female  chauffeur to  drive  him around(Drive My Car, remember?).

The  driver,an 18-year old  imperturbable stoic girl  named  Misaki(Tōko Miura)now becomes  the focus of attention , as  Yusuke finds himself leaning forward from  the  back seat to reach out to his graceful  ostensibly emotion-less driver. Their interaction is initially  tentative but soon becomes  an escape-route  for Yusuke from  the implacable fortress that he has built around himself.

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Complicating the  scenario  even  more(yes, the  swirls  of  conundrum  never cease  in this  mystical  journey  of  a filmmaker  into the  innermost recesses  of his most inaccessible  emotions) is the fact that Koji(Masaki Okada)  the  young man with  whom Yusuke had caught his  wife , is  also part  of  the  Chekhov stage adaptation which  Yusuke is  directing.

At the end Misaki drives Yusuke  to her native  place where she has buried some of her own secrets. By the time we reach  the end  of  the long drive into the darkness ,we are left with more question than answers on  the creative process: Yusuke’s directorial style seems   much more accessible than  what director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has attempted in Drive My Car.Or maybe  Hamaguchi sees  himself as  a superior filmmaker  to  his protagonist.

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Hamaguchi has  extracted  more juice  from a short story(by Haruki Murakam) than other  creative minds would  squeeze out of a 2000-page novel.In  making a  3-hour film  out  of   5-page story, Hamaguchi  is often  seen stretching  the emotions way beyond their prescribed limits. Drive My Car tells us that loss and  bereavement are best confronted when  they are least  expected to.  That  we  can get into our favourite car and  drive through stretches  of the imagination with nothing to lose except our stifling dependence on  the  trappings of  every day living.

Drive My Car is meant to leave us wiser than before.Tragically  I  was  left more confused about the  conundrum  of life after seeing the film.Can a  filmmaker really deliver us  from our uncertainties with his cinema? This question troubles  the film’s protagonist Yūsuke Kafuku  as  much as  director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.As  a spectator I would rather not interfere.

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother In Pathaan

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother

Ever  since Pathaan released on Wednesday, audiences  have been  curious to know who  is the woman who plays Shah Rukh Khan’s adoptive mother in Afghanistan. The stately lady  with  royal looks is none  other than the late producer  Tahir Hussain’s daughter and  Aamir Khan’s elder  sister Nikhat Khan.

 Nikhat has been  closely  associated with the  film industry  and has helped her father in the production of his  films like Dulha Bikta Hai and  Tum Mere  Ho.

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Nikhat has  acted earlier in the Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal ,  Ajay Devgan’s Tanhaji and  in Sandh Ki Aankh(as a Maharani).

For Pathaan, it was Shah Rukh Khan who suggested Nikhat Khan should play his foster-mother in  Afghanistan who names him ‘Pathaan’. It proved to be  an inspired  piece of casting, as  audience have  loved Nikhat  Khan’s cameo.

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It is  heartwarming that  all three Khan superstars  are  associated with Pathaan in one  way  or the other.

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Anurag Kashyap’s New Film Is About Love Jihad

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Love Jihad, whatever  that means, is  the theme  of  Anurag Kashyap’s new film Almost Pyaar  With D  J Mohabbat.

Debutant Karan  Mehta plays a Muslim boy  in an intense relationship with  Alaya F who plays  a Hindu  girl.Kashyap has spared the  audience none of the ugliness that  such a relationship generates  among  social-media  bouncers, the self-styled  guardian of morality .

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In the hardhitting powerful and pertinent film  a  bigot is heard commenting snidely, “These people first talk about Mohabbat. Then  they talk about Mohammed.”

Happily and  surprisingly,  the Central Board Of Film Certification gave the  film a ‘UA’ certificate  with no  cuts: a  rare non-‘A’ film of Kashyap.

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So far  Kashyap and his  team have kept the Love Jihad part  of  the plot  out of all media interaction.

But the  cat is  now  out of the bag.

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu to Star Alongside Varun Dhawan in Prime Video’s Indian Original Series , Samantha Speaks

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu

Samantha Ruth Prabhu will be starring alongside Varun Dhawan in the Indian installment of the Citadel universe, the global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. The untitled Citadel series based out of India is being helmed by renowned creator duo Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK), who are the showrunners and directors.

 The local installment is written by Sita R. Menon, along with Raj & DK. The streaming service also confirmed that the production is currently underway in Mumbai. After this, the unit will head  to North India and then onwards to international locales like Serbia and South Africa.

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  Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas will star in the first-to-launch series within the Citadel universe, which comes from the Russo Brothers’ AGBO along with David Weil (Hunters) and is set to premiere in 2023. Alongside Madden and Chopra Jonas, the first-to-launch Citadel series will also feature Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games saga). Additional local-language Citadel productions are also in the works, including an Italian Original series starring Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing).

  Speaking on  her participation in  The Citadel  franchise for  the  first time,Samantha says, “When Prime Video and Raj & DK approached me with this project, I decided to take it up in a heartbeat! After working with this team on The Family Man, it is homecoming for me.The Citadel universe, the interconnected storylines between the productions across the globe, and most importantly, the script of the Indian installment really excited me.”

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   Samantha  says she is  looking forward  to working with Varun Dhawan  .  “I am thrilled to be a part of this brilliant universe conceptualised by the Russo Brothers. I am also looking forward to be working with Varun for the first time, on this project. He is someone who is full of life and cheer when you’re around him.”

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Bollywood’s Achche Din Have Come

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 Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

All you doomsday  prophets, the  booms-day  profits  are here.  Pathaan  has  opened the floodgates again for Bollywood’s  bumper  bonanza at the  boxoffice.And now there is  only the achche din ahead  for  Hindi  cinema.

In the  next   two months there are  three sureshot  blockbusters coming up, beginning with Shehzada.  An astute devilishly impish  adaptation  of  Allu Arjun’s  2020 Telugu   blockbuster  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.The super-popular Kartik  Aaryan gives  his own  spin to the  character. This  performance will take   Kartik to the  next level of stardom. Kartik’s version of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is  radically different  from  its Telugu  version. Shehzada  takes  the core idea of  the Telugu original  and turns it into a  something  completely different. Kartik’s  co-star in Shehzada  is  Kriti  Sanon with whom he earlier shared superhit space in Lukka Chuppi.

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 Then there  is Luv Ranjan’s ravishing rom-com   Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. The director’s   male viewpoint on the chaos  of love relationships  crests to a comic  high in his latest. Ranjan  for  the first time, collaborates with Ranbir Kapoor for the  first time  collaborates with Shraddha  Kapoor  who badly needs a hit.This film should do the  trick. The winsome  lead pair tries  to do one  another  in a  game of Luv This is Luv Ranjan’s Hum…Aapke Hain Con. Ranjan  has in the past used  the romcom  space to  entertain his audience  to the hilt, he  says this  time the stakes are different. It is  not something we’ve seen before.

 Finally  it is   Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.  Karan  Johar’s first directorial in six years(not counting the one segment each  in Ghost Stories and  Lust Stories). This time he has assembled a dream star-cast  of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh and  the  boxoffice darling(s) Alia Bhatt.  But trust me, this one is  not about assembling stars  into a complacent plot. The writing in this  zany Romeo & Juliet is so crisp  and engrossing, the experience  is  likely to be   the visual version of a multi-flavour icrecream cone. Colour, choler and karma collide in this tragic-comic love story . Let the  box office dhamaka  begin  from the house  of Dharma.

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