Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
May 24, 2006
Tony Takitani

Last night I saw a DVD of 'Tony Takitani', a film based on the short story by Haruki Murakami, directed by Jun Ichikawa and with haunting music by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Takitani is the son of a jazz trombonist who rather inappropriately gives him the western name "Tony". He has a solitary childhood, works on his own as a graphic artist and eventaully finds love in his thirties with a beautiful woman, Konuma Eiko. But like all Murakami's women, Eiko has a flaw - in this case an obsessive need to fill her inner emptiness by buying designer clothes. He encourages her to cure herself, and in a tragic episode after returning a dress to a shop, she dies in a car accident. Tony Takitani tries to find solace by advertising for a woman to dress in Eiko's clothes - but his selected candidate is a mysterious double of Eiko who cries so much in the presence of the clothes that he has to dismiss her immediately. His father dies from liver cancer, he disposes of his wife's clothes, the jazz trombone and records. Tony Takitani is now utterly alone in the world.

I have loved reading Murakami's books, especially the autobiographical 'Norweigan Wood', 'South of the Border, West of the Sun' and the more fantastical and recent 'Kafka on the Shore'. Apart from one Swedish short film (5 minutes), Murakami has not so far allowed his other works to be made into films.

The washed-out colours, minimalist sets, long silences and anguished, sparing dialogue create an excellent realisation of Murakami's portrayal of loneliness, despair, loss, world-weary and disconnected, westernised characters so prevalent in Murakami's books. The themes of jazz, life without parents and strange but wonderful women were present as ever in his work. In another clever touch, showing the hermetic world in which the characters exist, Issei Ogata played both Tony Takitani and his father whilst Rie Miyazawa played both his wife Konuma Eiko, and Hisako (the woman who cries).

The juxtaposition of designer excess and hollow lives is perhaps an obvious theme. But in a telling line, Tony Takitani sees the clothes as mere shadows accompanying Eiko's soul. Much of the speech is commentary by the characters, as though looking over their own shoulders, disconnected from their own lives. Sentences from this commentary are sometimes picked up rather oddly by the characters on screen.

The use of the airbrush by Takitani is a clever metaphor for the blurring of memories, the past and present; and the droplets of paint represent the atomisation of society. Takitani's reaction to his experiences is to pile layers of solitude and introspection one upon another like a gossamer mille-feuille.

Somewhat more grating (surprisingly) was Sakamoto's plinkety-plonk piano accompaniment which set the mood but needed more white space of its own, and the panning screen-wipe technique to introduce new chapters (the director said this was intended to resemble the turning of pages).

Overall a beautiful and moving portrayal of Murakami at the spare height of his writing powers, realised by a talented director and cast.

Posted by nathan at May 24, 2006 09:11 AM

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