Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ryusuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car" at SIFF Cinema: Dec 10 - 23 & Northwest Film Forum: Jan 5 - 9

In just the last year, Ryusuke Hamaguchi has delivered a set of two new films, exhibiting an even higher nuance and complexity than that previously seen in his already notable body of work. Hamaguchi is part of a new 21st century corpus of filmmakers from Japan, this "New Wave of Japanese Filmmakers" dominates much of Taste of Cinema's "The 25 Best Japanese Movies of The 2010s (So Far)", with Hamaguchi's 5-hour domestic tranquility stunner, "Happy Hour", ranking highly. The first of this year's films took home the best screenplay award at Cannes for it's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name published in the "Men Without Women" anthology. As Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian states, this "Mysterious Murakami Tale of Erotic and Creative Secrets" has a through-line of related concerns also explored in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”. More than a "Triptych of Light-Touch Philosophy", "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is a deceptively unassuming movie, which watches as a mildly subversive observation on the goings-on between men and women, and at its core is an exploration of, "What We Talk About". By this, Manohla Dargis means to say that the film maps a geometry of desire expressed in sometimes casual and cruel intimacies that are divulged through three extended segments. As men and women circle one another, they exchange confessions and accusations, through a cascade of words, gestures, and glances. It is through these effusive dialogues that they slowly come to unveil the nature of their central yearnings, fears, and intentions. Taking a major prize amidst the abundance on offer at, "Berlin Film Festival 2021: The Most Impressive Selection in Years", this would be the first of the year's awards for Hamaguchi, with more to come in the following months. The second of these films premiered at Cannes to outstanding reviews, foremost for its deftness in navigating the complexities of “Haruki Murakami and the Challenge of Adapting His Tales for Film” and bringing "The Mystery of Murakami" to the screen. Manohla Dargis also reviews this entry from Hamaguchi, praising it as a quiet masterpiece, in which the director utilizes the rather slight story by Murakami to consider grief, love, work and the soul sustaining, life-shaping power of art. There will be two regional opportunities to experience this award-winning turn of "A Director Taking Your Heart for a Spin", first of which at SIFF Cinema in December, and the Northwest Film Forum the following month.