Tony Takitani

Tony Takitani


Reviewed by: Tim Bryant

Jun Ichikawa’s Tony Takitani is an adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story. It charts the story of an unfulfilled man (Issei Ogata) who finds happiness in a late marriage. He is a designer who lives through an empty twenties and thirties. In his forties he meets a beautiful clothes-obsessed woman (Rie Miyazawa) who reciprocates his interest.

All is well for a while after the marriage but he becomes increasingly worried by her shopahololic tendencies and by the prospect of losing her and then tragedy strikes.

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The narrative is well framed in sombre and slow-moving style. Historical context of Tony’s father and his wartime experiences in China and return to Tokyo is insightfully given at the beginning with evocative black and white photos and the jazz playing of the father. It is revealed that an American Major who befriended the father recommended the name Tony for his son during the reconstruction period.

The film is deliberate and sophisticated in its stylistic endeavours. The colour palette is extremely sombre with greys and greens favoured and the constant backing of Ryuchi Sakamoto’s elegiac piano chords. Characters sometimes take the words of the ever present narrator to add more life to it. Attention to detail is flawless and the film’s downbeat, lonely sensibility infuses every scene.

In these ways the film is deserving of respect. However, fans of Murakami the acclaimed and popular Japanese author upon whose story the film is based may well be disappointed. Something of the excitement of the author’s work has been sacrificed here. There is none of the dynamic existential despair found in the pages of the novels and short stories. The constant use of narration reiterates how strong the underlying material is and in this respect how little the filmmaker is really doing with it. He adds a self-assured elegiac sense of loneliness and despair but refuses to translate the dark magic. Narrative tension is lacking where it leaps from the pages of Murakami.

It is hard not to feel that this was probably a conscious decision. The pervading sense is that Ichikawa has set out to make a film above all else about a dull and lonely man: "You are dull like your pictures" Takitani is told. This makes for an accomplished but difficult to watch film. This viewer was left longing for the more arresting world found in the vast majority of Murakami’s fiction.

Reviewed on: 05 Nov 2006
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A lonely man's search for happiness.
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Director: Jun Ichikawa

Writer: Jun Ichikawa, based on the book by Haruki Murakami

Starring: Issei Ogata, Rie Miyazawa, Shinohara Takahumi, Hidetoshi Nishijima

Year: 2004

Runtime: 75 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: Japan


Sundance 2005

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