Ryûsuke Hamaguchi: “Chekhov helped me a lot in writing Drive my Car!  »

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi: “Chekhov helped me a lot in writing Drive my Car! »

Drive my car, one of the biggest films of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, won the Screenplay Prize. It arrives this evening on Arte. Croisette meeting with its author.

This interview was originally published on August 17, 2021, for the theatrical release of Drive my Car. We are sharing it again today on the occasion of the launch of the special cycle Cannes d'Arte festival. It will take place throughout the month of May 2024, and this acclaimed film by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi will be precisely scheduled at 10:40 p.m., after A secretby Claude Miller. Note that it is already visible for free on the channel's website.

It was the long-term film of the last Cannes edition which saw Titanium leave with the supreme laurels. At the time when we were doing this interview facing the Mediterranean in the “bunker” Croisette at the top of the list, we seriously thought we could hold on with this Drive my Car by the Japanese Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, the big winner. The Screenplay Prize, however, suits him well.

This adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami stretches over three hours and draws a curve of human feelings which makes it the most dramatically rich from the last edition. Under the aegis of Chekov whose prose infuses all the layers of the story, it is a question here of tired passion, renewed inspiration, tenacious guilt, damaged revenge and a… red car which pierces the landscape giving colors to this deliberately dark picture.

Drive my Car tells the story of how a theater director, devastated by the death of his wife, will try to understand what remains of her and them, by agreeing to work on an adaptation ofUncle Vanya. The 42-year-old filmmaker, revealed by the film-sum Senses (2018) had already presented at the Cannes Film Festival, Asako I & II (2018).

What remains of Haruki Murakami's short story from which you adapt here a short story from his collection Men without women?

Ryusuke Hamaguchi: Difficult to answer precisely because I obviously took certain liberties with the original text. One of the aspects I wanted to do was respect the characterization of the two main characters, Yusuke and Misaki, who have principles and above all a very precise line of action. In the end, I only kept one line from the original text, the one the young actor says to his director in the last part: “ To understand others, you must first be able to look yourself in the face. » This sentence is the very spirit of the short story and therefore of my film.

The other great author ” here “ in the film, it's Anton Chekhov and his play Uncle Vanya the rehearsals of which we follow here…

This ties in with the previous question, since if Uncle Vanya is cited in Murakami's text, it does not occupy as central a place as in the film. She only appears in the car sequences with the play recorded by the director's wife playing in the car radio. What I like about Chekhov and in this play in particular is the way the text reveals something in the actor that he is not necessarily aware of. The second part of the film focuses mainly on the theater and I wanted to exacerbate this revelation about beings. Murakami's short story is only about fifty pages long and ends abruptly. On the contrary, I was looking for a real resolution and in that Uncle Vanya helped me a lot. The play ends with a wonderful idea of ​​hope. “ We will live, we will work. » It is through work that my hero can look to the future and accept the death of his wife. He reclaims his life through Chekhov's text, first as a director then as an actor since he agrees to return to the stage.

Drive my car, a dizzying peak of delicacy (review)

One of the stars of the film is the bright red car that takes an electric, central place in the frame…

In the news it was already a SAAB but convertible and yellow. However, yellow is a color that blends more easily into an urban setting, unlike red, which stands out more. But I wanted to catch the eye. I remember we went to a rental company during the preparation of the film to choose the car. We were still thinking about a yellow SAAB convertible when the rental company showed up with his extremely well-maintained red car. It was obvious to me. We have It should also be noted that if we had opted for a non-convertible car, it would have been impossible to record the dialogues in live sound.

The action takes place mainly in Hiroshima, a city inevitably steeped in history, why here precisely?

This choice is a coincidence. We were originally going to film somewhere else. I wanted the main character to be able to go to an international theater festival to participate in this artist residency. We decided to film in Busan, South Korea, but the Covid pandemic forced us to film within Japan itself. We had to escape Tokyo at all costs where filming in a car is a real hassle. Obtaining authorization from the city is, in fact, a real path of the cross. The idea of ​​filming in Hiroshima was brought to me by my producer. On the one hand, the film commission on site is very welcoming and makes a lot of things easier. When I went there, I was also seduced by the very special light and the very geometric architecture of the city. Obviously the symbol linked to the city is a bit heavy, at the same time it is impossible to avoid it. However, in the film, there is a lot of talk about the responsibility of each of the characters. Take the hero who is first presented as a victim. He discovers that his wife is cheating on him, then she dies suddenly. Little by little, he tries to turn things around and will harbor a certain guilt regarding this tragedy. In a romantic relationship, responsibility is always shared. When something doesn't work, you have to know how to question yourself. In this way, the tragedy of Hiroshima takes on a particular resonance. What was Japan's share of responsibility at that time? How did we get there ?

Your staging is extremely precise. How do you envision it, particularly in the composition of your executives?

I always warn my cinematographers that the camera should not take precedence over the movements of the actors, but the opposite. I'm not interested in a nice plan. I want my actors to be able to express themselves and therefore move freely. The story always takes precedence over the technique. I don't want to be dependent on the talent of my cinematographers in my direction. As a result, I change technicians almost every film.

Drive my car by Ryüsuke Hamaguchi. With: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima… Diaphana. Duration: 2h59. Released August 18.

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