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I’ve spent the past few weeks yammering to anyone who will listen to me about how good Drive My Car is. And I mean: what’s not to love? It’s a three-hour subtitled Japanese movie about a production of Uncle Vanya! SIGN ME UP.

But honestly, it’s a tough “Knit to This.” In addition to the aforementioned subtitles of it, about half the movie exists in the silences between the dialogue—glances and side-eyes and looking at things in a rearview mirror or whatever. It’s not ideal for knitting, especially if you’re trying to master entrelac all of a sudden.

But the Uncle Vanyaness of it did remind me of another movie, Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street (streaming in a lot of places). If you’ve never seen it, it’s quite something. And if you have already seen it, it’s always worth a revisit. It’s Chekhov-talky—almost like a radio play at times—so it’s a good knitting companion.

It’s a lo-fi adaptation of the play—no on-location scenery or period costumes. Just actors (Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, George Gaynes, Brooke Smith) in a decrepit theater, running through Chekhov’s play in a brisk two hours. It starts with the actors milling around the theater and then Shawn naps on a bench; when he awakens, ta-da, he’s Uncle Vanya and the play commences. It’s the best kind of theater-ish magic and is a good reminder that an audience can be transported without a lot of theatrical trickery.

The famous closing monologue falls to Brooke Smith—she of the “it puts on the lotion” basement well scenes in Silence of the Lambs. She is so good in this final scene, you’ll never think of her as that again, though. By the end of it, she’s Sonya, now and forever.

It’s a good warmup for Drive My Car, too—hint, hint—which is streaming on HBO Max.

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12 Comments

  • Keep your posts coming

  • Thanks, DG. Hope y’all are staying safe off the icy roads this morning!

  • My husband and I saw Drive My Car at the opening day of a film festival in upstate New York. What a treat! As a retired Teacher of the Deaf, I was particularly moved by the use of sign language in the last scene. Beautiful and hopefully Oscar-worthy. Way to go, DG!

    • For Enterlac I found Murder in Provence on Brit Box…love the character chemistry here but mainly the architecture and scenery!!! Now back to picking up stitches. When I conquer this I’ll try Drive My Car

  • I’ve been waiting see Drive My Car. Murakami is one of my all time favorite authors, it will be interesting to see how he translates to the screen. I’ll have to wait for the DVD though, not the sort of movie that plays around me and I don’t have HBO. But Vanya on 42nd Street looks like it’s worth watching. Good activity for a blizzardy afternoon.

  • And here I was, looking forward to knitting this afternoon while watching “Minions”.

  • You are the perfect writer for me! That opening paragraph was Mwah! and the closing description for Brooke Smith was exactly how I remember her. I’m a huge Wally Shawn fan so of course I’ve seen this (long years ago now). Great minds, great minds. <3

  • Oh, DG, thank you for this! Never heard of it, actors that deliver reliably, can’t wait to see it! Looks so good, I may not be able to knit through it the first time.

  • I’ve loved this movie for about 20 years! I haven’t seen it since the days of the video rental place, though. Anybody know where it’s streaming? The feeling of hopeless resignation in this movie,( and in a lot of Chekhov) is JUST PERFECT for the times. Side note: I’m a Russian major who served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine.

    • It’s streaming in a lot of places – YouTube, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Plus – for $3.99.

  • SO WILD — we just watched Vanya on 42nd St — I don’t know when I put it on the list but we’ve been working thru our DVD Netflix Queue and it showed up. I’m a big André Gregory fan — My Dinner with Andre would be a GREAT knit to this! I will try Drive My Car next…

  • If you have PBS Passport, I recommend the recent Uncle Vanya with Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, and Roger Allam: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/uncle-vanya-about/12454/

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