O@tM: Drive My Car + Paterson

Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theater festival in Hiroshima. There, he meets Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount amongst the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koshi Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection to Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins – with the help of his driver – to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind.

What a weird, wonderful film. Totally unlike what we get to see from Marvel and Star Wars, this ain’t Transformers or Minions or any of the usual movie fair but a slow, a very very slow movie. Not much action but also not much of dialogue.

Drive My Car is an adult movie. Not because of age restriction or anything silly like that but because it shows grown up people living grown up lives. Lots of routine, stuff the protagonists don’t need to lose many words over – so they don’t. What needs to be said and done is said and done. Not a tad more.

Boring you say? Yes kinda. Particularly since they blew up these vignettes from a man’s life to a runtime of 3 hours! That’s ok for Japanese audiences, they just have longer attention spans than we poor westerners. I needed 2 seatings to get through it.

And still, once it was on, I couldn’t look away!

DMC has this fantastic hypnotic value that cries – very silently – don’t you look away, don’t you dare to avert your gaze!

I had to let this movie, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, marinade in my mind for a few days before I even thought about writing this, very short, condensed and confused review. The only thing that sprang to mind after a while was Jim Jarmusch. Yes, DMC reminded my of a good Jarmusch film, the glacerial, unexcited pace, the long takes, the speachless characters, the ambience, the taking its time.

Drive My Car is a wonderful film. And, honestly, can a movie featuring a Saab be bad in any way? Hubby and me, we loved our old 99GL to pieces … until the engine broke. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

And speaking of Jim Jarmusch

Exactly one week in the life of a young man named Paterson of Paterson, New Jersey is presented. He lives an extremely regimented and routinized life, that routine perhaps most vividly displayed by the fact that he is able to wake up at exactly the same time every day without an alarm. That life includes eating Cheerios for breakfast, walking to work carrying his brown bag lunch packed in his lunch pail by his wife Laura, having a casual chat with his colleague Donny before he begins his shift driving the #23 Paterson bus for the local public transit company, walking home where he straightens out the exterior mailbox which somehow during the day gets knocked crooked, eating dinner with Laura and listening to her goings-on of the day, taking Laura’s English bulldog Marvin – who he would admit to himself he doesn’t much like – out for a walk to his neighborhood bar where he has one and only one beer before walking home with Marvin. There are day to day variations which are often the result of how certain other routines associated to him manifest themselves, such as what drama will occur in the relationship of Marie and Everett who are always at the bar together despite her always saying that they are no longer together, or in what form Laura’s unique and distinctive design sense will affect Paterson’s life directly or indirectly. Paterson’s keen observances of what happens around him are largely the bases for the poems he writes, he constantly thinking of these and writing them in his secret notebook whenever he has a spare moment during his day. He is influenced by among others Paterson natives such as William Carlos Williams and his epic poem “Paterson”. Paterson’s writing are largely for himself, although Laura would like him to share more with her and the rest of the world. Something that happens to Paterson this week has the potential to knock his routinized world into a tailspin. โ€”Huggo

I love Jarmusch, every single one of his movies, even the lesser ones of his extended ล“uvre. And Paterson, sorry to say, is one of those. Dunno if he was inspired by Murakami or the Drive My Car film, but he manged to put a week, a very boring, uneventful week of a man’s same old, same old life, into 2 hours worth of low density movie.

What we get to see is mostly routine, just interrupted by a very few highlights. And these highlights are neither very exciting nor consequential. Our protagonist, Paterson of Paterson – wonderfully acted by Adam Driver – shrugs it off. Doesn’t matter if his service bus breaks down, or he meets a litte girl who’s a better poet than he is, if he un-arms a suicidal drinking buddy, his dog eats his secret notebook with all his poems in it, or if he meets a foreign Japanese tourist in the park. Nothing leaves a mark on him.

On me it did. A couple times I wanted to jump up and scream at my computer screen “Wake up you fool!” But Paterson stayed stoic, obviously content with his live as a busdriver and secret poet. Ok, his choice. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And then it dawned on me: Maybe that is what Paterson is all about: Wasting our chances, throwing our opportunities to the wind. Rather stick to the uncomfy routine of our daily boredom instead of sticking our heads outta the window and open ourselves up? How can I dare shouting at a fictional character when I myself have 3 unfinished novels somewhere stashed away on some hard drive, that I never dared showing to anybody, not an agent, not other writers, not even to hubby? They are there since 30 years. And I don’t even dare finishing them coz then I’d have no excuse for hiding them anymore.

Second relevation: This planet needs busdrivers as it needs family caretakers. But, honestly, who needs another bus-driving poet or the umpteenth feminist science fiction novelist? We all can have dreams but maybe it’s better if they stay unfulfilled? Driver’s driver is probably a better driver than a poet and I’m surely a better housewife and caretaker than a writer.

In so far I’ve gotta say that even though Drive My Car is the better movie, Paterson had a much stronger impact on me. But why anybody thought of calling this a comedy is beyond me.

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