HomeEntertainmentBong Joon Ho and Ryusuke Hamaguchi on Oscar Surprise ‘Drive My Car’

Bong Joon Ho and Ryusuke Hamaguchi on Oscar Surprise ‘Drive My Car’

In January 2020, simply weeks earlier than his movie “Parasite” would make Oscar historical past, the director Bong Joon Ho was in Tokyo doing {a magazine} interview. By that time in what had change into a really lengthy press tour, Bong had dutifully sat for dozens of profiles, however at the very least this one supplied a bit of little bit of intrigue: Bong’s interviewer was Ryusuke Hamaguchi, a rising director in his personal proper.

For Bong, a fan of Hamaguchi’s movies “Asako I & II” and “Joyful Hour,” this was a welcome probability to combine issues up. “I had many questions that I needed to ask him,” Bong recalled, “particularly since I’d been doing many months of promotion and I used to be very sick of speaking about my very own movie.”

However Hamaguchi wouldn’t be deterred. He was a person on a mission — “pleasantly cussed and chronic,” as Bong remembered him — and each time a playful Bong tried to show the tables and ask the youthful director some questions on his profession, Hamaguchi grew ever extra critical and insisted that they communicate solely about “Parasite.”

“I actually needed to understand how he made such an unimaginable movie, although I knew how drained he was of speaking about ‘Parasite,’” Hamaguchi stated. “I felt sorry for him, however I nonetheless needed to ask him questions!”

Now, two years later, Bong has lastly gotten his want: The 43-year-old Hamaguchi is the person of the second, and Bong is simply too comfortable to leap on the cellphone and focus on him. Hamaguchi’s movie “Drive My Automotive,” a three-hour Japanese drama about grief and artwork, has change into the season’s very unlikely Oscar smash, receiving nominations for greatest image and worldwide movie along with nods for screenplay and directing.

These occur to be the identical issues “Parasite” was honored for 2 years in the past, when that South Korean class-struggle thriller collected 4 Oscars and have become the primary movie not within the English language to win greatest image.

“‘Parasite’ pushed open that very heavy door that had remained closed,” Hamaguchi instructed me by means of an interpreter this week. “With out ‘Parasite’ and its wins, I don’t assume our movie would have been obtained nicely on this approach.”

Known as a “quiet masterpiece” by the Instances critic Manohla Dargis, “Drive My Automotive” follows Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a theater director grappling with the dying of his spouse, as he mounts a manufacturing of “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima. The theater firm assigns him a chauffeur, Misaki (Toko Miura), who ferries him to and from work in a crimson Saab whereas holding again huge emotional reserves of her personal. Although Yusuke at first resents Misaki’s presence, a connection — after which a confession — is lastly made.

“There are lots of administrators which are nice at portraying characters, however there’s something peculiar and distinctive about Hamaguchi,” Bong stated through an interpreter by cellphone from Seoul. “He’s very intense in his method to the characters, very targeted, and he by no means rushes issues.”

And although that unhurried method may end up in an extended operating time, Bong felt that the three-hour size of “Drive My Automotive” solely enriched its eventual emotional influence.

“I’d examine this to the sound of a bell that resonates for a very long time,” he stated.

Maybe it’s becoming that the movie’s awards-season journey has been slowly constructing, too. Not like “Parasite,” which rocketed out of the Cannes Movie Pageant after profitable the Palme d’Or, the intimate “Drive My Automotive” (tailored from a brief story by Haruki Murakami) emerged from Cannes final summer time with a screenplay trophy and little Oscar buzz. However after critics teams in New York and Los Angeles each gave their high movie award to Hamaguchi, the film’s profile started to steadily rise.

Nonetheless, the street to Oscar is plagued by loads of essential favorites that couldn’t go the gap. Once I requested Hamaguchi why “Drive My Automotive” had proved to be his breakthrough, the director was at a loss.

“I truthfully actually don’t know,” Hamaguchi stated. “I need to ask you. Why do you assume that is the case?”

I advised that in the course of the pandemic, it impacts us much more to observe characters who yearn to attach however can not. Even when the characters in “Drive My Automotive” share the identical mattress, the identical room or the identical Saab, there’s a gulf between them that may’t at all times be closed.

Hamaguchi agreed. “We’re bodily separated and but we’re in a position to join on-line,” he stated. “It’s that factor of being related and but, on the similar time, not.”

As an instance what he meant, Hamaguchi recalled that 10 years in the past, whereas engaged on a documentary in regards to the aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, he traveled by means of jap Japan interviewing survivors. As he lent these individuals a digicam and his belief, deeply buried ideas got here spilling out of them.

“After the interviews, I wrote out the phrases, and I noticed that those that basically shook me have been the phrases that have been fairly regular or unusual,” he stated. “They have been issues that maybe these individuals had already thought however had by no means thought to verbalize till that second.”

The identical is true in terms of the “Drive My Automotive” characters, whose inner struggles can solely attain the extent of epiphany once they discover somebody to open up to.

“It’s doable that when the characters say what they’re considering, the viewers may assume, ‘Oh, they didn’t really know this?’ Nevertheless it’s in regards to the journey of having the ability to get to a spot to verbalize that, and for that journey to occur, it’s as a result of somebody is there to witness it,” Hamaguchi stated. “Any person being there to hear has an unimaginable energy.”

And Hamaguchi wouldn’t thoughts some firm himself, if solely to assist him course of all these Oscar nominations. Once I spoke to him final week, he was quarantining in a Tokyo lodge after coming back from the Berlin Movie Pageant. “I haven’t seen anybody, so no celebration for me,” he stated.

Because the Oscar nominations have been introduced on Feb. 8, Hamaguchi was flying to Berlin; when the aircraft landed hours later, he turned on his cellphone and was flooded with textual content messages. Even now, recounting the story, he stays in a state of disbelief.

“To be sincere, I don’t assume I’ll really feel like all of that is actual till I’m really on the awards ceremony,” he stated. “Regardless of what number of congratulations I get, it’s onerous to consider, particularly after I’m confined to a slender, small lodge room. Maybe after I’m on the awards ceremony and I see administrators like Spielberg there, actuality may kick in.”

Bong was much less gobsmacked by Hamaguchi’s nominations. “I knew ‘Drive My Automotive’ was an amazing movie, and I didn’t discover it shocking,” he stated. “And for the reason that academy these days has been exhibiting extra curiosity in non-English movies, I anticipate that the movie will do nicely on the awards.”

His personal Oscar ceremony was a whirlwind expertise — “I can’t consider it’s been two years already,” Bong mused — however he declined to supply recommendation to Hamaguchi on the way to navigate the evening.

“I’m certain he’ll do nicely,” Bong stated. “He’s somebody who’s like an historic stone — he has a really robust middle.”

As a substitute, Bong prolonged a request. After they first met in Tokyo, and once more final yr throughout a panel dialogue on the Busan Movie Pageant in South Korea, there wasn’t a lot time for the 2 males to hang around. “So this yr, I hope we will get collectively both in Seoul or Tokyo and have a scrumptious meal,” Bong stated. And after the Oscars, absolutely they might have loads of notes to check.

Hamaguchi was keen to simply accept the invitation. “I’m actually delighted to listen to that,” he stated, although he cautioned that Bong may not like the subject of dinner dialog: “I’d actually like to hold asking questions on how he makes such wonderful movies. I need to hold asking him till he’s sick of me asking!”



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