Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car made history this morning, becoming the first Japanese film ever to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. What’s more, Hamaguchi is now only the third Japanese filmmaker to be nominated in the Best Director category. With nods in further key categories Best International Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay, Drive My Car has four nominations total, tying Akira Kurosawa’s Ran as the most-nominated film ever from Japan (though the latter was a French co-production).
Drive My Car also joins an elite, but growing, club of foreign-language films to be nominated in the Best Picture category. That includes recent winner Parasite from South Korea. (Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima, which was mostly in Japanese, was a Best Picture nominee, but was produced by U.S. companies.)
Suffice to say, Hamaguchi, who is currently in transit to the Berlin Film Festival where he is a jury member, is in for a big surprise when he lands.
Hamaguchi co-wrote and directed Drive My Car, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami. The drama won the Best Screenplay prize in Cannes and has been on a wild ride ever since, taking top overall film honors from both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, along with myriad prizes from other orgs. It also has three BAFTA nominations, including Best Director.
One of the most highly-praised films out of Cannes, the story centers on Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a stage actor and director happily married to his playwright wife. Two years after the latter abruptly disappears, Kafuku is asked to direct a production of Uncle Vanya and, despite his protests, must be chauffeured for the duration by Misaki (Toko Miura).
In Deadline’s review, Pete Hammond called Drive My Car, “Exceptionally well-written, with sharp insights on love, loss, marriage, grief, truths on stage and off, and what we may — or may not — know about those closest to us.”
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