Tony Takitani (Japan; 75 min.)


directed by: Jun Ichikawa
starring: Issei Ogata; Rie Miyazawa
Tony Takitani
 
Michael says: "In the tradition of Tsai Ming Liang’s masterful WHAT TIME IS IT THERE, Jun Ichikawa’s TONY TAKITANI is a tale of loneliness filled with gorgeous imagery and moments of sudden humor. Tony’s mother died in childbirth, and he was left with his war veteran father who spends all his time touring with his jazz band. After a solitary childhood, Tony becomes a successful commercial artist (he possesses the raw talent, but lacks the heart for true artistry.) As an adult he meets a young woman with whom he falls in love and they get married. Of course, Tony’s wife has her own quirk: an obsessive fascination with clothes shopping, in this case, high fashion.

This superb film adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, and the strikingly original style Ichikawa uses gives the impression that we are watching the short story unfold in images directly from the page. The film features extensive narration taken from the story and languid visual style featuring a consistent left to right camera pan. Issey Ogata (YI YI) plays the dual roles of Tony and his father, while the delightful, Chlotrudis Awards nominated Rie Miyazawa (TWILIGHT SAMURAI) handles two roles as well as the two women in Tony’s life. This beautiful tale is told with stylized simplicity that comes highly recommended. 5 cats"

 
Diane says: "Jun Ichikawa's adaptation of a short story (published in the New Yorker a
few years ago) is not to my liking. His approach is not so much to turn the story into a film, as to present a reading of the story coupled with static images. There were only a few sequences where the visuals made a point that the narration did not. And those unlimited left to right pans--enough already! (NYT review has some interesting things to say about how this all relates to Japan's politics.) Excellent acting by Issey Ogata
(plays both father and son), nice shots of designer shoes. 2 cats, but it is so much fun to say!"
 
Ivy says: "This adaptation of a short by one of my favorite authors - Haruki Murakami - is quite challenging. Nearly completely silent, and the audience has to accept that the love of beautiful clothes can be a dramatic device. I was really impressed with the adaptation. Murakami's writing is very internal, slightly surreal, and the dramatic structure is usually simple (although his books are enthralling). Keeping narration, adding dialogue that is directly to the camera as an extension to the narration, and then a little normal dialogue. I liked that combination but it is very unconventional and
a little confusing at the beginning.

"I haven't read the short to find out how much the film changed it but it really felt like Murakami to me. I found the repetitive score that re-enforces the slowness of the film distracting. I understand why it was chosen but it was a bit distracting for me and I didn't need to be reminded that the film was trying to create a dreamlike or meditative state in the audience.

"And at 75 minutes - the filmmaker knew exactly what he was doing and kept the film short in order not to overtax or 'bore' the audience. I felt like I was in very capable hands and definitely want to learn more about the filmmaker. He's made a number of films but I haven't seen any of them.

I didn't notice the pans that Diane mentions. I like that idea. It might be too gimmick-y to use the camera like eyes on a page. I will have to look at that when I watch it again."

Diane replies: "I was hugely surprised when another person in the large Chlotrudis viewing said he didn't notice the pans, either, especially since I am often oblivious to cinematic touches. Was anyone else as distracted or annoyed by them as I was? Must add NYT interpretation here:

'Mr. Ichikawa's insistence on Tony's historical context may even be behind the steady left-to-right camera movements the director uses throughout the film: before the occupation, Japanese was written right to left (and up and down), which is the same direction that traditional horizontal scrolls are viewed. It's no wonder Tony often seems headed in the wrong direction.'

Michael replies: "That NYT interpretation seems awfully tenuous, but who knows? Whatever his reasoning (and I rather like the left to reading of a page) it reminded me a great deal of my beloved Tsai Ming Liang and his penchance of motionless cameras with just one or two pans. It made the two appearances of the female characters (stationary camera with the character coming up the stairs and slowly beinh revealed) all the more noticeable and shocking.

"The more I think of TONY TAKITANI, the more I love it."

 
Beth Caldwell says: TONY TAKITANI is a masterful film. The cinematography is creative and lovely and the acting is very good. I agree with Ivy that the themes are a bit obvious, but more so with Diane that the title is fun to say. Why do the trees bloom
after Eiko dies? One thing wrong with it is at times the emotional overlay seems too forced. 4 cats."
 
Bruce says: "Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, Jun Ichikawa has made creative choices that beautifully compliment Murakami’s written word. Instead of filling the screen with dialogue, a narrator reads the story to the audience. Occasionally one of the characters interrupts the narrator or finishes his sentence. Then, the narrator temporarily surrenders his role quite naturally. Ichikawa has created the equivalent of a book on film. Thus TONY TAKITANI becomes an intense visual experience. Filmed exquisitely in muted tones, the gentle palette is a perfect match for the simple, subtle story.

"From the moment he was given a Western name, Tony feels different and removed from his peers. Raised by a single father, an absentee jazz musician, Tony grows up in isolation. As a child, he sits in drawing class staring at a colourful bouquet. Tony chooses to draw a solitary leaf in pencil, focusing on the technical design of nature while ignoring the color and the big picture. His lack of responsiveness to his immediate world leads to a career of technical illustration, a safe haven far away from the burden of emotion.

"Tony meets Eiko when she delivers work to his studio. To his surprise, he asks her out and proposes on their fifth date. Eiko loves fashion and rapidly becomes a shopoholic. Her obsession is based on a need to fulfill herself; much of what she buys she never wears. Still, she buys and buys until an entire room is devoted to her wardrobe. Finally, Tony becomes frustrated and suggests she curtail her passion; shortly thereafter she dies in a freak accident.

"Tony places an ad in a newspaper for a housekeeper. In lieu of skill requirements and references, Tony advertises for a woman exactly the size of Eiko. He wants someone to fill her shoes. His ad is answered by Hisako, a young woman who accepts the job but promptly gets an anxiety attack over wearing someone else’s clothes. Tony returns to isolation, a way of living he knows quite well.

"Issei Ogata plays both Tony and his father, Schozaburo Takitani. His performances are subtle. Rie Miyazawa plays both Eiko and Hisako. The story of Tony Takitani reminds me of THE HAIRDRESSER’S HUSBAND. Both films involve men who attain bliss by marrying their supposed ideal only to have their happiness shattered by death.

"As for the left-to-right pans, I found them distracting. Equally disconcerting was the fact that the style of the film shifted slightly as the pans disappeared after twenty minutes or so into the film. 4.5 cats"

 
Thom says: "Not a lot of time here, but I felt I must comment on this exceptional work of art. Knowing nothing about director Ichikawa, I went in with only the good reviews I remember it receiving back when it was first released. The film is basically a series of photographs (albeit some moving), but the shots are of such exquisite sensitivity that I found myself in a perplexing state of astonishment. While on the one hand I wanted to look at any shot forever, I was also anxious to see the next one because I knew, after a time, that it would be as resplendent as the previous shot. But the photography is only one aspect of this film that is brilliant. I loved how the dialogue spoken would occasionally be in the wrong tense or words actually that someone else spoke, but coming out of a different character’s mouth. The music and story were mournful but compellingly fashioned. This film will assuredly make my TOP 10 for 2006 (but will be with an asterisk as it was a 2005 entry). Don’t miss this masterpiece. 5 cats"