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Hamaguchi Ryusuke scoops best screenplay in Cannes

Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Takamusa Oe of Japan won best screenplay for their tale of heartbreak and loss in “Drive My Car” on Saturday, (July 17) at the closing night of the 74th Cannes International Film Festival.

Back in Cannes, after winning the runner-up prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi was again in winning ways.

Hamaguchi was awarded the Berlinale Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize for “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” in March this year, just as he wrapped on “Drive My Car”, a production he had started a year earlier but which ground to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic hit Japan and the rest of the world.

Co-written by Hamaguchi, the movie is based on a short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami and centres around theatre actor and director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who is staging a production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”.

Kafuku, happily married to screenwriter Oto (Kirishima Reika), sets off to Vladivostok to take part in a theatre festival when his flight gets cancelled due to a cold snap. Returning home unannounced, he finds Oto in bed with the lead actor of the TV series she writes for. Shortly after, Oto suffers a medical emergency and dies, leaving Kafuku to confront the demons lying underneath the seemingly perfect surface of their life together.

Two years later, still struggling to overcome his loss and regrets, Kafuku travels to Hiroshima to produce a multilingual version of “Uncle Vanya” and is assigned a driver, Misaki (Miura Toko). The young woman comes with her own emotional baggage and unwittingly, over the course of their journeys between rehearsals and his seaside abode, the two help each other heal.

The filmmaker, whose 2018 movie “Asako I & II” screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, said he enjoyed working with a multilingual cast which included Korean actress Park Yoo-rim, who plays the part of a mute actress delivering her lines in sign language.

“Drive My Car” was one of 24 films vying for the prestigious Palme d’Or prize, which was eventually won by French director Julia Ducournau for her film “Titane”.

(Production: Mike Davidson)

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