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Bong Joon Ho and Ryusuke Hamaguchi Get 2022 Oscar Nominations for ‘Drive My Car’

The Korean filmmaker and the Japanese director have long admired each other. The two explain why Hamaguchi’s best-picture nominee resonates.

In January 2020, just weeks before his film “Parasite” would make Oscar history, the director Bong Joon Ho was in Tokyo doing a magazine interview. By that point in what had become a very long press tour, Bong had dutifully sat for dozens of profiles, but at least this one offered a little bit of intrigue: Bong’s interviewer was Ryusuke Hamaguchi, a rising director in his own right.

For Bong, a fan of Hamaguchi’s films “Asako I & II” and “Happy Hour,” this was a welcome chance to mix things up. “I had many questions that I wanted to ask him,” Bong recalled, “especially since I’d been doing many months of promotion and I was very sick of talking about my own film.”

But Hamaguchi would not be deterred. He was a man on a mission — “pleasantly stubborn and persistent,” as Bong remembered him — and every time a playful Bong tried to turn the tables and ask the younger director some questions about his career, Hamaguchi grew ever more serious and insisted that they speak only about “Parasite.”

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“‘Parasite’ pushed open that very heavy door that had remained closed,” Hamaguchi told me through an interpreter this week. “Without ‘Parasite’ and its wins, I don’t think our film would have been received well in this way.”

Called a “quiet masterpiece” by the Times critic Manohla Dargis, “Drive My Car” follows Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a theater director grappling with the death of his wife, as he mounts a production of “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima. The theater company assigns him a chauffeur, Misaki (Toko Miura), who ferries him to and from work in a red Saab while holding back vast emotional reserves of her own. Though Yusuke at first resents Misaki’s presence, a connection — and then a confession — is finally made.

Now, two years later, Bong has finally gotten his wish: The 43-year-old Hamaguchi is the man of the moment, and Bong is only too happy to jump on the phone and discuss him. Hamaguchi’s film “Drive My Car,” a three-hour Japanese drama about grief and art, has become the season’s most unlikely Oscar smash, receiving nominations for best picture and international film in addition to nods for screenplay and directing.

Those happen to be the same things “Parasite” was honored for two years ago, when that South Korean class-struggle thriller collected four Oscars and became the first film not in the English language to win best picture.

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