|© 2005-2010 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami that was published in an
English translation in The New Yorker, TONY TAKITANI is a deliberate,
meditative look allegory of post-war Japan. Writer-director Jun Ichikawa has
crafted a delicate, slow-moving film that, like its source material, is more of a
character study than a dramatic tale.
The title character (essayed by Issey Ogata) is born just after World War II
to a jazz musician father, who on a whim bestowed his Westernized name, and
a mother who died within three days of his birth. Because his father is off
pursuing his career, young Tony is raised by a series of housekeepers whom he
rebuffs. He lives a life of isolation, determined to pursue a career in art. The
only trouble is that while his drawings are technically proficient, they are lacking
in feeling. Undeterred, Tony gets a job as a technical illustrator, daily executing
sketches of machinery and other inanimate objects.
A chance meeting with a client, Eiko (Rie Miyazawa), leads to an unlikely
romance and marriage. Like her husband, though, Eiko ultimately is an unhappy
person – a condition that manifests itself in her desire to acquire designer
clothing and shoes. What starts off innocently soon grows into an obsession,
and one entire room of the couple’s apartment is given over to her collection.
When Tony gently chides her over her compulsiveness, Eiko attempts to curtail
her shopping – with tragic results.
Bereft at finding himself alone again, Tony places an advertisement for a
woman with very specific characteristics. Hisako (Miyazawa in a dual role), a
waitress struggling to make ends meet, answers the job posting and agrees to
the odd condition of employment: Dressing up in Eiko’s wardrobe. But Tony
soon learns that he cannot recapture the past and must move forward.
One can easily write a long essay on how Murakami’s original story is a
mirror for contemporary Japan. Tony clearly represents the post-war generation
left displaced and disassociated from its past by Japan’s defeat in World War II.
Eiko can be seen as the next generation, the one who came of age as the
country emerged on the world stage as an economic leader, but one influenced
heavily by the West. Their marriage is a coming together of the two – but also
symbolic of the generational clash.
On other level, the tale can be seen as one about loneliness and its
destructive effects. The ultimate outsider, Tony allows someone else to come
into his life and experiences happiness, but it is a happiness tinged with regret
and fear. Like many, he fails to fully appreciate what he has until he loses it. At
that point, he seeks to recreate it, (with echoes of Hitchcock's VERTIGO and
De Palma's OBSESSION) but soon learns that one cannot capture the past.
TONY TAKITANI is a deceptively simple tale with very complex issues at
its center. An omniscient narrator (Hidetoshi Nishijima) keeps the audience at
bay but Ichikawa’s visuals, influenced by American painter Edward Hopper, have
a spare beauty to them. The musical score by Ryuichi Sakamoto also adds
to the melancholic tone of the film.
MPAA rating: NONE
Running time: 75 mins.
Viewed at The Japan Society.