What connects Drive My Car to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood?
Beep beep, yeah
Drive My Car, the new film from Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, was well received in Cannes (five stars!) and has just landed in UK cinemas. The “mysterious and beautiful” tale of a theatre director grappling with art and infidelity is based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, from his collection Men Without Women.
Page to screen
There have been numerous adaptations of the beloved Japanese author’s work. A recent standout is Burning, named one of the Guardian’s best films of 2019 (streaming options here). The unsettling thriller shifts the location from Murakami’s Japan to director Lee Chang-dong’s South Korea. Look out for a devilish performance from Steven Yeun (later seen in Minari).
Sound, fury, etc …
The film shortens the title of Murakami’s original short story Barn Burning – and both nod to a story of the same name by William Faulkner, published in 1939. Faulkner is no stranger to the cinema either, having turned to screenwriting for cash during Hollywood’s golden age (though he didn’t see it as quite so golden – the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink offers a dark take on Faulkner’s experiences).
Getting the Humph
Faulkner was one of three writers on the 1946 film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, the gold standard for detective noir mysteries – on the page and on screen. The shadow Chandler casts is large: Robert Altman’s polarising/brilliant adaptation of The Long Goodbye (Rent/buy on Amazon) updates the Philip Marlowe character with a burned-out, ironic tilt – and a perfect dose of 1970s Elliott Gould.
Following the gumshoes
Murakami has said that Chandler is his favourite writer – and translated his work into Japanese. Meanwhile, Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice riffed on LA detective fiction (and pretty much everything else) – Paul Thomas Anderson’s film version (streaming options here) came with a score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The composer also wrote music for the 2010 adaptation of Norwegian Wood, the 1987 novel that turned Murakami into a literary superstar. Between them, Jonny and Haruki have this case sewn up.
Read Murakami’s love of jazz, vinyl, the Beatles and jogging is well documented: lesser known is his vast collection of T-shirts, the subject of a new essay collection, Murakami T.
Eat Murakami characters are often eating, making the reader want to eat, too: start imbibing with his early novel After Dark, opening in a Denny’s with an order of chicken salad and crispy toast.