‘Drive My Car’ is the first Japanese film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar

It’s a great day for Japanese cinema – that of Ryusuke Hamaguchidrive my car‘ has just become the first Japanese film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Along with this landmark nomination, the film is also up for three more Oscars, for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best International Feature (formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film) and Best Director.

Praise doesn’t come from left field for the film, which won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and also scooped the Golden Globe for best non-English language film – a distinction that Japan had not won for 62 years. Nonetheless, it’s gratifying to see local production lined up alongside last year’s big-budget blockbusters, including ‘Dune’, ‘Don’t Look Up’, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Power of the Dog’. which has a whopping 12 Oscar nominations this year.

drive my car
Photo: Courtesy of Janus Films

Adapted from a 2014 short story by Haruki Murakami titled “Men Without Women,” “Drive My Car” is about a theater director called Yusuke Kafuku, who works on a new production while mourning the sudden death of his screenwriter wife Oto. (Masaki Okada). When choosing a lead role for his groundbreaking adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” Yusuke makes the odd choice of casting a young television actor named Koji Takatsuki (Masaki Okada). Unbeknownst to Koji, Yusuke invited him to play the protagonist upon realizing that Koji was the same man Oto was having an affair with shortly before his death.

drive my car
Photo: Courtesy of Janus Films

In an attempt to solve the unexplained mysteries Oto left behind, Yusuke uses her chauffeured car trips to work every morning to listen to tape recordings of her reading her plays aloud. Although Yusuke spends most of his time in his own head, he begins to confide in his 20-year-old driver. Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), who in turn tells him about his own losses.

drive my car
Photo: Courtesy of Janus Films

There are many similarities between “Drive My Car” and the experimental Chekovian production on which the film is centered. For starters, the opening credits don’t appear until after 40 minutes of the movie (the movie itself is three hours long). Then you have Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe’s ruminative script, which combines the melancholy and desperation of Chekhov’s stories with the sexual overtones and surrealism that define Murakami’s writing.

It’s hard to predict how many Oscars “Drive My Car” will win when there are so many strong contenders vying this year, but the nominations alone are enough cause for excitement.

If you haven’t seen the film and want to catch up before the Oscars March 27you can still catch a screening at select cinemas, including Uplink Kichijoji, Human Trust Cinema Shibuya, and Ikebukuro Humax Cinema.

For more details, read our full review here.

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