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Drive My Car: The World Is a Stage and Communication Can Be a Bridge

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Drive My Car: The World Is a Stage and Communication Can Be a Bridge

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” This may very well be the most recognizable quote from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Life often emulates the dynamics of theatre, and vice-versa. They are like two mirrors facing one another, no longer allowing for the distinction of which image is more real. Like Shakespeare centuries before him, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi demonstrates through his work the connection between life on and off the stage, going beyond what meets the eye and tapping into the subtle but effective power of subtext. There’s no more poignant exploration of this relation in the director’s work than his nearly three-hour-long screen adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story. Drive My Car is a film that understands the theatricality of social life with its texts as well as with its silences, loading both what is said and unsaid with as much meaning. It comprehends that what one person chooses to reveal is as significant as what they choose to hide. Action is not limited to outward activity, it can also exist within, unnoticeable to those who are not paying attention.

The intertextuality in Drive My Car is present explicitly through Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and even further explored through Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which plays a major role in the story. It’s chiefly in the juxtaposition of the playwrights’ scripts and the characters’ private and often unspoken inner lives that the movie acquires its full meaning.

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Drive My Car is concerned with how people relate to one another on and off-stage, making it perfectly clear that acting does not only take place under the spotlight and in front of an audience. The protagonist, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishikima), and his wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) are our first example of this. Although one’s a working actor and the other has retired from the profession, in both their cases their acting extends to their private lives. Note however that we mustn’t understand “acting” as being altogether synonymous with “lying.” While the latter can be hollow and superficial, there’s still truth in the former, even if one is not saying words that accurately represent reality. Acting can take place every single day of our lives and it is so intrinsic to our being that we may have a hard time distinguishing it ourselves. Hamaguchi understands that all human beings are “players” in their own lives as they change and adapt according to the circumstances and the people they interact with.


RELATED: 7 Oscar-Nominated Japanese Films to Watch After ‘Drive My Car’

From early on in the film, Yusuke is playing a role that has nothing to do with his theatre productions: he acts as the husband unsuspecting of his wife’s infidelity. He represses his emotions, his hurt and sorrow, for the sake of upholding the status quo of their marriage — until he walks in on Oto having sex with a younger actor named Koshi Takatsuki (Masaki Okada). Although Oto also acts as if nothing changed, she is the one who takes the first step to drop the act and come clean. However, the day it seemed his wife would confront him with this revelation, she dies, thus forcefully breaking the cycle and depriving Yusuke of closure. No longer is he “waiting for Godot” as “Godot” is now dead and there’s nobody to wait for.


Until the end, Yusuke never found it within himself to confront Oto about her unfaithfulness. The day we can assume they are finally going to talk about it, Yusuke drives around in his car, stalling his return home and listening to the recording of Oto reading Uncle Vanya. Yusuke may want to keep up the act so that the dynamic of his marriage does not have to suffer change, but Chekhov’s text does not let him off the hook so easily: “Because that woman’s fidelity is a lie through and through. There’s an abundance of rhetoric but no logic in it.” Yusuke rehearses inside his car: “My life is lost, there’s no turning back. That thought haunts me like an evil spirit day and night. My past went by without event. It’s unimportant. But the present is worse. What should I do about my life and my love?” Although he sounds nearly devoid of emotion, we understand that underneath the surface, a tempest rages on. The Russian playwright’s text reverberates its meaningful echo in Yusuke’s private life, challenging him to liberate the feelings and thoughts he has tried to stifle.

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Oto’s story about the high schooler who breaks into her crush’s house acquires additional meaning with a second viewing as we begin distinguishing the extra layer of meaning that must be inferred. Through her story, and especially through its ending, which Takatsuki recounts to Yusuke, we can start to see what lay beneath Oto’s act and what she may have wanted to tell her husband the day she died. In Takatsuki’s version, the high school girl kills a burglar who tried to take advantage of her, leaving his corpse behind. The girl knows that there’s no turning back, and she needs to confess what she has done. However, when she gets to school the next day, everyone is acting as if nothing happened, the same as Yusuke did after witnessing his wife and Takatsuki. Both Oto and the girl know they have done something reprehensible, have been caught for it, and yet, contrary to the natural order of things, the world remains unchanged. In the end, the high schooler turns to the surveillance camera, “The only change she has elicited in the world”, and admits to killing the man. “I killed him,” the girl says, mirroring how Oto was metaphorically killing Yusuke. The girl’s admission of guilt is a reflection of how Oto had grown to feel about her infidelities, to the point where she could no longer endure the apparent undisturbed normalcy. It is not outlandish to think Oto knew Yusuke had become aware of her cheating. The more we know a person, the better we can differentiate the real from the act, even if we can never truly peer into their heart.


This is a prime example of how Drive My Car uses rich subtext to get to the characters’ innermost truths. But arguably, subtext shines the most in the movie’s intertextuality, specifically through Chekhov. Two years after Oto’s passing, Yusuke shuns the role of Vanya, as the play’s focus on themes like hopelessness and the surfacing of a disconcerting past hit far too close to home. The line between reality and act becomes too blurry, and thus, he passes on the responsibility of the main role to Takatsuki. This decision is purposeful, as purposeful as Hamlet choosing “The Mousetrap” to “catch the conscience of the king.” As Yusuke expresses to Takatsuki while they are having drinks at a bar: “Chekhov is terrifying. When you say his lines, it drags out the real you.” The decision is impelled by the necessity of unmasking his wife’s lover, and Chekhov is but a vehicle to do so.

In Drive My Car, the play’s dialogue discards the emotional repression of their regular day-to-day and provides the characters with an indirect expression of their inner lives. But as the text is endowed with meaning far deeper than first meets the eye, likewise, the silences can be as meaningful. Quoting Victor Turner’s From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play: “Social life, then, even its apparently quietest moments, is characteristically ‘pregnant’ with social dramas.” It is not far-fetched to assume that playing the role of Vanya made Takatsuki more sensitized to Yusuke’s circumstances. When Takatsuki is taken from rehearsal by police for having beaten up and killed a man, he does not say anything to Yusuke, he simply bows, showing his genuine respect to the man he had previously caused so much pain. Those who don’t know the full story behind the two actors’ connection cannot perceive just how packed with meaning this gesture is.

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RELATED: The Gentle Filmography of Ryusuke Hamaguchi: What to Watch After ‘Drive My Car’

So, besides acting, which is more pervasive than one might think, how do people relate to one another? If we were to boil it down to its fundamentals, the easiest answer may seem to be “language,” but that’s not fully accurate. Communication can create a bridge between individuals, but only when there is the willingness to connect. In his adaptation of Murakami’s work, Hamaguchi makes it clear that communication is not a feature that only belongs to those who share a language, or those who can speak at all. In fact, being able to speak the same language does not mean that one is able to properly communicate, even if one is, for instance, married for over 20 years. The fact that Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya is done in multiple languages in the movie, although it challenges communication, does not impede it. Thus proving that the ability to communicate is not so much dependent on the language as it is on the willingness to connect, to open the door and allow for vulnerability to enter.

Without connection, communication is rendered ineffective. This works in real life just as much as on the stage. When sharing the stage with another actor, one cannot limit themselves to saying the memorized lines; there must be co-acting, respect and awareness of the others who share the same stage. It’s through sharing a scene, co-acting with another, that one can have a better grasp of one’s own inner life and reach an emotional catharsis. This is what happens on and off the stage in Drive My Car. Thus, the movie provides a thoughtful reflection on the Hegelian principle that it is only through the encounter with another that we can know ourselves and attain satisfaction. The ability to communicate is not so much dependent on the language spoken as it is on the willingness to connect, to share the stage and the scene.


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We dive into dangerous waters when the act takes over our lives to the point where we become detached from the self and unable to articulate our innermost truths. Such is Yusuke’s case until he finds a moment of catharsis, of emotional release and confession of deep-seated pain, thanks to his newfound connection with his driver Misaki Watari (Toko Miura). The healing process can finally begin when one drops the pretense, forsakes the mask, leaves out the pre-written dialogue and truly starts communicating.

Catharsis in the film finds its best expression in Sonya’s monologue at the end of Uncle Vanya, powerfully done in sign language. However, contrary to its message, Drive My Car proves that we need not wait for the afterlife to reveal to God our suffering and pain, instead, we can choose to do it in life. We can choose to be open to connection and allow ourselves to be driven by another when we lack the capacity to take the wheel ourselves. We are all actors in this world that is a stage, and as such, we must inevitably share a scene, and we can only make the most out of it when we allow ourselves to connect. Backed up by connection, unfiltered communication forms a bridge when it may feel like there’s nowhere to go. Finally, through art, both the audience and the artist can find the necessary path to the catharsis real life sometimes denies.


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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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