Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Cast:Issei Ogata, Rie Miyazawa, Shinohara Takahumi, Hidetoshi Nishijima
Director: Jun Ichikawa
Tony Takitani is a short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami that has been made into a film. Murakami has a reputation for doing some quirky/weird kind of stuff, but he also writes about relationships and particularly loneliness and love missed. Takitani is not one of his weird stories, it is instead very much about loneliness and is a very melancholy piece.
As a short its short enough that its difficult to sum up without telling you everything. Basically Tony's story starts with his father, a Jazz musician during World War 2. Having just about survived the war Tony's father continues to play Jazz and befriends the Americans. When Tony's mother dies in childbirth, his father is distraught, drinking with his American friends one of them suggests that he should name the baby after him - Tony. Thinking how American influence is going to grow in Japan and that Tony is going to be a good name the baby becomes Tony Takitani. Unfortunately this marks Tony out, with his mother dead, his father always off playing the clubs and with an American name, Tony has a lonely life. But as he grows he becomes obsessed with art. He grows up during the sixties, ignoring the student turmoil around him, mocked by his tutors for having to clean a style he ironically goes on to be a perfect technical artist, in huge demand from many magazines for his ability. Yet Tony is still alone.
Enter Konuma Eiko. Eiko is a younger woman. An assistant for one of the magazines that arrives to collect work from Tony. He can't help admire his fashionable perfection. So after a couple of times Tony asks Eiko out to lunch, and things move from there. Eventually he asks her to marry him, but she already has a boyfriend. After reflection though she decides that she will marry Tony after all. Every time they meet Eiko is dressed in something different, so he isn't surprised when she buys lots of designer clothes when they honeymoon in Europe. But by the time they have converted the spare room into a walk in wardrobe, Tony starts to think they might have a problem. Bringing it up with Eiko though is another turning point, and one which leaves Tony worse off than ever before.
The way the film stays as closely to the story is as impressive as it is unusual, though certainly given that it is mostly narrated contributes to how that was achieved. One scene though that really stood out as being a divergence from the original, and I'm not really sure why it was done or what the intention behind it was. Another which has more potential is an attempt to make more of the Hisako character, a young woman that Tony briefly attempts to replace Eiko with. It feels like more could have been done with this character, though it never is in either the story or the film, though for the film to have gone too far would have been to change the mood of the piece.
The parts of Tony Takitani and his father Schozaburo Takitani are both played by the actor Issei Ogata, which mostly works. The only point where it doesn't is where he have the full adult Ogata playing the part of the student Tony when he is clearly too old, which feels just a little odd. Rie Miyazawa similarly plays the part of Eiko and Hisako, which is interesting given the different approach to life the two characters have.
Despite the fact that the audience laughed once or twice, particularly in the scenes where we saw just how over the top Eiko's wardrobe was, Tony Takitani is a quietly devastating film. Full of a slow motion melancholy that leaves you a little stilled after viewing.
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