Wondering what to watch? This week, vehicular mayhem! Sort of. Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car swerves onto MUBI fresh from the Japanese film picking up the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Oscars, from four nominations.
Meanwhile Prime Video shift into a higher gear with the 90s action classic Speed which sees Keanu Reeves driving a bus at high velocity while trying to defuse a terrorist situation.
At the same time, Netflix drops a new Original film from beloved Texan filmmaker Richard Linklater, the semi-autobiographical, magical realist animated drama Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood about the space race.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
Drive My Car - MUBI (pick of the week)
The latest film from Ryusuke Hamaguchi who — as of last weekend — has broken into the Western cinematic mainstream with his adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story Drive My Car. A maker of melodramas who embraces evocative minimalism in his visual stylings, Drive My Car tackles the soap opera elements that it adds to Murakami’s work with impressive restraint.
Read more: New on Sky Cinema in April
It follows Yusuke Kafuku (an excellent Hidetoshi Nishijima), a stage actor and director still struggling with the loss of his wife after two years. He accepts an invitation to direct Chekov’s Uncle Vanja at a theatre festival in Hiroshima, and there he meets Misaki (Toko Miura, also amazing), an introverted young woman, appointed to drive his beloved car — a boxy, red Saab 900 kept in pristine condition.
Watch a clip from Drive My Car
It’s an impressive expansion on a story that lasts just 30 pages (a significant portion of which is dedicated to the character’s inner monologue about why women can’t drive), which takes place almost wholly within a single car journey. Here its minimal cast of characters are expanded upon, adding dozens of new figures with rich inner lives, all unpacked with captivating grace and emotivity over its patiently paced running time.
A 3-hour study on the complications of grieving someone who hurt you doesn’t seem like an easy prospect for weekend viewing, but Drive My Car is incredibly watchable, even slyly funny at times. Though awards attention has now sadly pushed it into territory where people feel licensed to call it 'overrated', it’s regardless one of the past year’s finest films.
Also new on MUBI: Samouni Road, L’atalante
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood - Netflix
The new film from Texan director Richard Linklater, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood tells the story of the Space Race and the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from through the eyes of Stan, a kid growing up in Houston, Texas.
That’s where the semi-autobiographical element of Apollo comes into play. There’s of course some imagination added, as the self-described dreamer Stan is recruited on a “top secret mission” by NASA to test out an “accidentally smaller” version of the lunar module during summer camp. But it’s the family unit that’s mostly the focus of Apollo 10 1/2, all of their idiosyncrasies and interests captured in in a film that feels like an old photograph.
Read more: New on Netflix in April
Like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly before it, Linklater re-teams with Tommy Pallotta for an animated production using rotoscoping. The rotoscoping may be jarring for some (why animate something if it’s going to be perfectly mapped to real people?), but it’s a fun combination of the nuances of physical performance combined with a graphic art style. That much becomes clear as it mixes in a number of different colour palettes and art styles at varying levels of impressionism, some of which conjure a nostalgic vision of the 60s via its retro-futurist concept art and imaginings.
Watch a clip from Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
There are also animated recreations of the period’s pop cultural ephemera including The Archies, Dark Shadows and 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Stan amusingly tries to explain to an uninterested kid in the playground. There’s a graceful balance between the nostalgic recollection of these artefacts but also their significance within the family home, but also the wider cultural implications and how they represent a snapshot of America that existed outside of the kids’ point of view.
Read more: New on Disney+ in April
It’s been a while since Linklater played around in this stylistic sandbox, but the laidback drawl of the narration and wide-ranging interest in the mundanities of its character's everyday life is familiar enough. It finds amusement in the family’s quirks: the generational gap in how the (“large, Brady Bunch configuration”) family perceives hippies, in their frugality and in Stan’s bratty embarrassment that his dad is in NASA admin rather than being an astronaut.
If not quite as striking as the unsung A Scanner Darkly it’s breezy, comfortable and pleasant viewing, capturing both the strife and futurist optimism of its time period.
Also new on Netflix: The Bubble, Pet Sematary (1989), Stray
Speed - Prime Video
A classic Keanu Reeves joint, Jan de Bont’s Speed brings to life a tricky existential question: what if you were on a bus that couldn’t slow down?
It’s a question that Los Angeles cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) is forced to answer as the bomb expert Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper, unhinged) rigs a bus to explode if it drops below a certain speed — bad enough in any context, worse if you know LA traffic. There’s a satisfying efficiency to how de Bont tells Speed, with little frills and plenty of thrills with its wild, adrenaline-charged practical stuntwork.
Read more: New on Prime Video in April
But it’s not just pure action, with the confinement of the bus bolstered by its eclectic cast of commuters who bring tangible stakes and personality beyond the dimension of cop/bad guy movies so common to the 90s.
Also new on Prime Video: Joe Bell, I, Robot
Also new on Sky Cinema: The Many Saints of Newark
Also new on Disney+: Better Nate Than Never, Amelie, David Brent: Life on the Road