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 09:11 AM | Comments (0)


June 02, 2003
Welcome the dawn?

We saw Trembling before G-d at the Cambridge Arts Cinema yesterday. Sexuality and religion are uncomfortable bedfellows – this film documentary was compellingly humanistic viewing.

I’ve wanted the shadows,
I don’t anymore.
No matter what happens,
I won't anymore
I've run from the sunlight-
Afraid it saw too much.
The moon had the one light
I bathed in-
I walked in.

I held in my feelings
And closed every door.
No matter what happen.
I can't anymore.
There's someone who must hear
The words I've never spoken.
Tonight if he were here
My silence would be broken.

I need him to touch me-
To know the love that's in my heart-
The same heart that tells me
To see myself-
To free myself-
To be myself at last!

For too many mornings
The curtains were drawn.
It's time they were opened
To welcome the dawn.
A voice deep inside
Is getting stronger,
I can't keep it quiet any longer.
No matter what happens,
It can't be the same anymore...
I promise it won't be the same

Barbra Streisand: Yentl (why do so many gay people see Yentl as such an important film?)

How can orthodox faith be reconciled with homosexuality and twenty-first century living? Why do these people try to effect such an impossible combination – clinging to their beliefs in the face of the bible’s teachings, bigotry, rejection (even excommunication) and lack of humanity from other Jews?

The most heartening aspect of this understated film is its role in provoking debate in the Jewish community. Screenings have been organised in orthodox shuls and for Israeli headmasters. But will the kafuffle change anything? Those of a conservative disposition will retreat to their view, and the liberals will continue to beat their heads against the wall of bigotry and lack of understanding. “Piety, paternity and family” sees homosexuality as an evil sickness, treatable only by abstinence and prayer.

Of particular note was the Lubavitch Rabbi who had counseled a young man from Los Angeles whilst failing to understand that homosexuality is about far more than anal sex. He persuaded the youngster to enter into therapy for several years in an attempt to find a cure. Meeting again after twenty years, the Lubavitcher could only scratch his head in puzzlement about the problem that hadn’t gone away.

The theme was limited to that of orthodox Jews and their struggle. This was rather unbalanced for the Christains and Moslems who may miss the universality of the insoluble dilemma of gay people who want to stay true to themselves and to their religion.

Most worrying was that one of the gay men interviewed was terrified of being persecuted by his religious collegaues once the film was screened. The non-judgemental, documentary style contained an implicit plea for understanding and change. But I don’t see it happening whilst people remain prepared to cast aside theior human understanding in favour of mistaken religious beliefs.

Posted by nathan at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)


June 01, 2003
Reloading the clichés

Bigger, flasher, more expensive, packed with redundant parts and overused special effects - it was hard to feel involved in The Matrix Reloaded in the same way that I was sucked into the world of the original film. Parts of the story were laughable - the acknowledged Superman ripoff, others cringeworthy - the messianic call to arms by Morpheus, followed by a rave scene unworthy of the doomed Zion.

All the same, it was good for a laugh. I'm not sure that I'd want to give them another fiver to watch the third wringing out of this material.

Mind you, the cod Christianity is fun to decipher.

Posted by nathan at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)


May 24, 2003
Is that a minkey?

It took us most of the morning to clear up from yesterday’s dinner party. We went to the waterworld centre to buy some copper sulphate to rid the goldfish of their parasitic infection (don’t ask) and then went round to Alistair’s with cream cakes. Somehow, that translated into a visit to the beer festival (for Alfred and Alistair) whilst I stayed at home and read. They returned at about half past ten, merry with beer and wanting to be fed. We watched “Return of the Pink Panther” on DVD and laughed until we cried.

Apparently, that was the only Pink Panther film available on DVD at the time, but now the rest are available on Region 1. Where's my credit card, swdi?

Posted by nathan at 11:53 PM | Comments (1)


March 08, 2003
An evening at home

A quiet day today - more work than I'd expected to do this Saturday. We bought some good German wines from Noel Young in Trumpington - they have a decent selection of unusual wines for such a small shop.

In the evening, we watched Fargo. More greatness from the Coen brothers. Then an episode of the american Queer as Folk second series. I followed that with the first act of Tristan before rounding off the evening with Michael Caine in The Ipcress File. So psychadelic, so 60's, such a hoot!

That's quite a variety for an evening at home, curled up with Alfred.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


March 01, 2003
Scary movie

A day spent working to catch up on my end-of-month paperwork. Isn't it nice to be back from Hamburg? That more or less drowned the day, and annoyed me rather, as I'm tired after a very heavy month and just wanted to relax.

We watched A Clockwork Orange on DVD this evening. Scary - and strange that I'd never seen it before. The combination of Beethoven and violence shocked me - I won't forget it.

Saddam's destroying some of his missiles. They may be the tip of the iceberg, but at least it's progress (although Blair and Bush don't see it that way). Why won't they tell us what they know?

Posted by nathan at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)


February 19, 2003
Time to die

Alfred, Xavier and I went to see The Hours at the Arts Cinema this evening. The all-star cast included Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan and Julianne Moore as Laura Brown, with the screenplay by David Hare (of awful theatrical escapade infamy) and music by Philip Glass. The music was rather overplayed and intruded inappropriately in the action. The cast played well together, and was an obvious Oscar ploy.

The film itself was about one woman (Laura Brown) obsessively reading Mrs Dalloway whilst coping with her all-too-perfect husband and child, a second woman (Clarissa Vaughan) organising a party for her friend who is dying of AIDS whilst Virginia Woolf gains inspiration for the novel, imprisoned and deranged in her Sussex home.

The story ends with the AIDS sufferer (an author) refusing to go to the party, saying "I love you" to Vaughan before tipping himself out of the window of his apartment, Woolf drowns herself in a river and Laura Brown finds herself unable to overdose, so decides to live but deserts her husband and children.

Was there a moral to the film? I felt it to be a secular view - one's life is one's own to dispose of as he chooses (man - or woman - disposes). If you want to end your life, go ahead.

Woolf's books were very much coloured with feminist themes, and interpretation of her work perhaps overly labours her mental illness and eventual suicide. The film itself is modelled on Mrs Dalloway, in which several groups of people are followed during the course of a single day. The central figure, Clarissa Dalloway, is a wealthy London hostess. She never meets the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Smith, who commits suicide, but their lives are connected.

Following a bout of of mental illness Woolf loaded her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse near her Sussex home in 1941. On her note to her husband she wrote: "I have a feeling I shall go mad. I cannot go on longer in these terrible times. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer. I owe all my happiness to you but cannot go on and spoil your life."

I left the cinema annoyed with Glass, and very maudlin.

Posted by nathan at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)


January 22, 2003

Xavier came round for supper this evening. We had hors d’oeuvres, followed by rare grilled organic steaks and plain steamed vegetables, together with a rather good bottle of Chateau Lascombes 1991 (Margaux). Just how I like it.

We then went to the cinema to see Chicago. Well worthwhile. The story was fleshed out and overall differed sufficiently from the stage musical to excite my interest.

and all that jazz

And Richard Gere’s still dishy.

Posted by nathan at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)


December 31, 2002
An evening in

On a lighter note, we watched West Side Story on the TV this afternoon. The music's great, Sondheim's lyrics so precise and the boys breathtaking!

There's a bottle of vintage Bollinger in the fridge and I'm just about to make cocktails, so maybe I'll cheer up.

Don't worry about me (I know you won't).. I'm always like this on New Year's Eve.

Posted by nathan at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)


December 30, 2002
The epic continues

Oh dear, I'm overusing the word epic.

We watched the first couple of hours of The Godfather Part 2 on DVD this evening. I couldn't make it to the end, as it was getting late and Alfred gave me a lovely relaxing massage that sent me pecefully to sleep.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 28, 2002
The Godfather of all movies

We watched The Godfather on DVD this evening. After yesterday's "The Two Towers", it was a completely different sort of epic.

What gets me is that the film manipulates my sympathies to be with this gang of thugs.

Posted by nathan at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)


December 14, 2002
Product placement

It's a busy weekend. After returning from London after lunch, we booked to see the new James Bond film Die Another Day at the cinema in Cambridge. The expected product placement was very much in evidence. The story was much darker than previous films. I felt this to be a welcome change and Brosnan was excellent.

Indeed, it's provoked a protest from the North Koreans, who state that the film is "an insult to the Korean nation" and "a dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander and insult". Good for them.

Although, secretly, I'd love to be the villain in a Bond film.

I even cooked this evening - meatballs in tomato and pepper sauce. Alfred's been doing so much of the cooking recently, I've been missing the pleasure.

Debbie's found out about Brian - the lava flow commences in Ambridge.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


November 17, 2002

I awoke very early (as usual) with a cold (unusual) and have been sniffing and sneezing all day.

We watched Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors on DVD yesterday evening. I hadn't seen the film since it first came out in 1999. I already had the closing quotation from Professor Levy in the thoughts section of my web site. Despite the overlaboured references to eyes, opticians and God being all-seeing, I still find this to be one of Allen's most measured and intelligent films. The idea that we are all faced with agonising choices, that we are indeed the sum of our choices, is a manifesto for free will above predesitination. The Rabbi being blind in thought before he is blind indeed is sobering.

I had the pleasure this morning of lying down for an hour and a quarter with a mug of lemsip to listen to the Archer's Omnibus. I know it hardly chimes with my "culture vulture" interests, but I enjoy it. So there.

More Meistersinger now - only three days to go.

Posted by nathan at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)


November 10, 2002
The Philosopher's Pupil

Alfred made a delicious panzanella salad and pannacotta for supper, which we had with tuscan cocktails. Very civilised. We watched Iris on DVD. It's the true story of the lasting romance between Iris Murdoch and her husband, John Bayley. The film alternates between scenes of their student days in Oxford and old age, with Iris succumbing to the reletless advance of Alzheimer's disease. The contrast between Iris as a bon vivant and John Bayley's stammering awkwardness was facscinating, as was the persistence of their love to the end. I cried as I realised my own (and Mum's) worst fear - being an intelligent person inexorably, implacably losing one's critical faculties.

Sorry Pita, I didn't mean to whinge, but it was a very moving film. Judi Dench was in so much finer form than on the stage a fortnight ago.

Posted by nathan at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)


November 03, 2002
Well I've never done that before

Walkyrie was on yesterday (Saturday 2nd November)

Oh well. Anybody fancy a ticket for yesterday's performance?

Credit Dark Horse Comics

The Walkyrie Brünnhilde joins Wotan on the peak

We watched a super film Ice Age on DVD. It was a really good laugh.

Posted by nathan at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)


October 24, 2002
Smoking shoes

There was a great review of the production of Wozzeck that I saw last week in today’s Time Out:

“As simple soldier, medical guinea-pig and moonlighting servant, Matthias Goerne combines Warren Clarke’s lumbering bearishness with Tim Spall’s ungainly pathos. Goerne also brings a Lieder singer’s phrasing and tonal beauty to Berg’s … expressionist masterpiece”

(Martin Hoyle, Time Out no 1679 23.10.02)

On a different note, we finished watching Porterhouse Blue on DVD. My favourite scene is still the one where the chaplain's shoe is smoking as he is sleeping too near to the grate. Instead of rescuing him, the Senior Tutor asks a butler to move him. It was a change to have cause for a hearty laugh.

Posted by nathan at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)


October 05, 2002
Hey Dude

I worked, it seemed like forever, to get my admin up to date, but the day improved as it went on. I spoke with Mum & Dad and most concerned to hear about Dad's impending operation and the trepidation so evident in his voice.

When I bought tickets for the Opera House, I bought extras for Wozzeck and Meistersinger, assuming that somebody would want to come with me. But nobody does. What a saddo - oh well, I guess I'll have to return them.

In the evening, I cooked a rather un-PC meal of seafood salad, calves liver with shallots and chestnut mushrooms with fresh runner beans, baby new potatoes and organic carrots. Then a pleasant panna cotta for dessert, all washed down with a decent bottle of Givry-Chambertain. Candles and roses on the table, Carmen from Glyndebourne on Radio 3, with Anne-Sophie von Otter in the title role. Now you see how the day improved.

You know how many films there are that you miss at the cinema? The ones where people say "it's great", but you just don't get to see it. Well, the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski was just such a film for me. We saw it on DVD last night. Quotes by the bucketload. Go see.

Posted by nathan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)


September 25, 2002
271 or 2665?

I should know. I'm sure it's 271U, but it doesn't seem as I remember it.

Oh dear - work's on my mind again.

Last night I saw Woody Allen's Stardust Memories on DVD. It was a delight, especially to see Sharon Stone's debut. It reminds me of that feeling of sweet loss, a yearning for a past that never quite was. I have called that feeling Wehmütigkeit, but the word is itself lost.

Have you ever dreamed of your life as a movie. You sit as the director, in an empty cinema, viewing your life's film with horror?

Posted by nathan at 09:43 PM | Comments (0)