Oscar 2022: Japan’s Drive My Car–Scores Big (Picture, Director, Screenplay)

Hamaguchi’s ‘Drive My Car’ Lands Record Number of Nominations for Japan

The meditative drama, based on a Haruki Murakami short story, scored nominations for best film, best director, best adapted screenplay and best international feature film.

 

Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s meditative drama Drive My Car has been the awards season sensation from overseas in 2022.

On Tuesday, the film landed a record number of nominations for a Japanese title, officially landing in competition for best film, best director, best adapted screenplay (Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe) and best international feature film.

Japanese cinema has been honored at the Academy Awards, particularly in its golden era of the 1950s and 1960s, when classic works like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon took home honorary Oscars in a period before the advent of the best international feature category.

More recently, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters was nominated in the best international film category in 2018.

Yōjirō Takita’s Departures was the last Japanese film to win in the category back in 2008. But no Japanese movie has ever been nominated in more than one category at once, although not for lack of opportunity.

Drive My Car’s strong nominations haul Tuesday was reminiscent of the historic 2020 Oscars run of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which landed six nominations, ultimately winning four.

Hamaguchi, 43, has been on a stunning creative run over the past year and a half. He co-wrote Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurasawa’s period thriller Wife of a Spy, which won the best director award at the 2020 Venice Film Festival; and his 2021 omnibus feature Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, which tells three stories about contemporary Japanese women, was a hit at the Berlinale, winning the Silver Bear jury prize.

But Drive My Car is the film that has launched him far beyond the festival circuit and into the attention sphere of discerning moviegoers around the world. The film is an adaptation of a short story by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami. It stars Japanese leading man Hidetoshi Nishijima as Yusuke Kafuku, a stage actor and director coping with the sudden death of his enigmatic wife. Traveling to Hiroshima to direct a performance of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, a gruff, silent young woman is assigned to act as his chauffeur, ferrying him around the city in his bright red Saab 900. During the ride, an uncanny connection emerges between the two, with secrets and confessions revealed.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and has been winning accolades ever since.