Tony is an illustrator who's been alone all his life?until he meets Eiko, a beautiful woman who transforms his life. The only problem is that Eiko is a compulsive shopper with a penchant for high end couture that leads to ... more »darkly satiric consequences.« less
"This film, minimalist in the best possible sense, is a lyrical study of isolation and loss. Tony Takitani (Issei Ogata) grows up the loner kid of a jazz-playing, loner father. Like his father, Tony masters an art, drawing, and eventually becomes very successful. Early in his adulthood Tony has a few failed romances but never considers marriage until, in middle age, he meets a woman fifteen years his junior, the sight of whom for the first time adds an unshakable pain to his profound solitude.
A long sequence of aged Japanese photographs acts as a prelude to the film, telling in a few minutes the story of Tony's father. This section of plot takes up a much greater portion of Haruki Murakami's original short story, and Jun Ichikawa made a wise decision in reducing it, though utmost respect for the source material is in evidence throughout the film.
And then Tony's story itself begins, and if you are going to fall for this film, you do it then. From start to finish, really, the film is an episodic accumulation of small, deeply-touching scenes tied together by very simple yet evocative piano music and the enchanting voice of a narrator (Hidetoshi Nishijima) whose warm, thoughtful delivery makes one think of some poet of a bygone era.
Tony's courtship of Eiko and his subsequent troubles draw us closer and closer to this sad, beautiful soul until his loneliness finally becomes absolute. Ichikawa solidifies these intense layers of feeling with wonderfully basic techniques: stirring skylines and skyscapes used as backdrops; lovely, tangible environments; and discrete, minimalist camera angles--key conversations shot from behind the characters, over the shoulder, for instance. As a side note, the one film to which I can compare "Tony Takitani" is Laurent Cantet's "L'emploi du temps" (France, 2001), which has a similarly touching minimalism married to the intense inner lives of characters.
I was fortunate enough to see "Tony Takitani" at the 2005 Seattle International Film Festival, and of the films I have seen at the festival over the past decade, this ranks among my favorite three--the others being the 1996 Israeli film "Clara Hakedosha" ("Saint Clara") and 1999's "A la medianoche y media" ("At Midnight and a Half") from South America. I cannot imagine a better feature film to first bring the brilliant writing of Haruki Murakami to the big screen.
Note: Murakami's "Tony Takitani" was first published in English in the April 15, 2002 issue of The New Yorker."
Punayut Klykoom | Pakred, Thailand | 03/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In perfectly transferring to the screen the laconic beauty of acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami's austere prose - an impossibly difficult task in itself - with a minimalist touch so revered by the Japanese, Jun Ichikawa has delicately crafted a profound, emotional powerhouse that is Tony Takitani, arguably the director's most accomplished work to date.
Tony Takitani (Issey Ogata), whose actual name, as the film's omniscient narrator tells us, "is really that: Tony Takitani", has always lived a life of solitude. Not that he minds, or actually acknowledges, the loneliness though. His widowed, jazz trombonist father (again played by Ogata) is always on the move with his band, leaving Tony's domesticated childhood in the care of indifferent housekeepers. As he enters adolescence, and the old women are done away with, the boy sinks deeper into himself, growing up to become introverted and withdrawn. An immovable tower of reticence, he works at home as a freelance technical illustrator renowned for his meticulousness, unaware of the magnitude of the emotional void within him. That is, until along comes Eiko Konuma (Miyazawa Rie), a woman decades his junior.
While there may not be much in the way of a plot (Murakami's original short story itself was leagues below the sublime sumptuousness of South of the Border, West of the Sun, to say nothing of the soul-shattering The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), the film more than compensates for this with its minimalistic aesthetics, the subtle but radiant performances from its two leads, and its thoughtful, lingering silences.
Ichikawa has often been described as heir to the great Ozu (who Ichikawa genuinely admires), and nowhere else, not even in his earlier Tokyo Kyodai or Osaka Story, is this claim better exemplified than in the ascetic structure and quiet dignity of Tony Takitani. With delicate care and an unwavering eye for the most minute of details, the oft-overlooked filmmaker interweaves exquisite threads - from distinguished composer Ryuichi Sakamoto's elegantly lilting, plaintive piano score, to cinematographer Taishi Hirokawa's rendering of the austere sets of Yoshikazu Ichida into a subdued palette of desaturated greys and white - to gracefully form a tapestry of superlative richness and depth; an immaculate evocation of the dreamy, melancholic world that is Murakami's.
Echoes of the great master may indeed resonate faintly throughout the precisely-composed interior frames and distant shots, but the visual style here is entirely Ichikawa's own. The camera of Tony Takitani rarely allows itself to be static, preferring instead to lithely drift rightwards from scene to scene, unfurling languidly, not unlike an emaki scroll - a perfect complement to the narration peerlessly voiced, with an appropriately resigned equanimity, by Hidetoshi Nishijima (whose sentences are at times completed by the onscreen characters themselves, a unique and effective touch).
The film is as much a showcase for character comedian Issey Ogata as it is for Ichikawa's prowess as a director. Having only one previous notable onscreen role to name - that of the visiting Japanese software designer Ota in Yi Yi, a sort of benign Man in the Brown Macintosh (that is, if one were to view Edward Yang's magnum opus as a Taiwanese Ulysses) - Ogata delivers a magnificently poised performance, bereft of the side-splitting theatrics he's known for onstage, as an emotionally dislocated man finally able to discover meaning in his barren life, only to see it give way to inconsolable grief.
One beautifully-crafted piece of minimalist filmmaking, Tony Takitani serves, like Hirokazu Koreeda's Nobody Knows, as a happy reassurance that there exists in Japanese cinema alternatives to the manga-inspired ultraviolence advocated by the likes of Takashi Miike. A round of applause then to Ichikawa for creating this deeply haunting, deeply elegiac portrait of solitude and spiritual emptiness; as flawless as any adaptation of Murakami can be. "
Maybe it's not love but the opportunity of love
Dwight | USA | 04/13/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I don't understand the reviews for this movie. I didn't read the book but I didn't get the same impression from this film as any others. I'm not sure if I am more disappointed in the story because I don't agree with the perspective or because I don't agree with the interpretation of other viewers. I did laugh at Rie Miyazawa's last scene when she didn't even want free latex gloves. That was great. Hopeful. I certainly enjoyed her scenes. But I wanted to see this movie shot again and retold. I understand that this movie is the way it is intentionally but it seems that the deep analyses of this film are not all that deep. Is there a hidden message in this film because the background is war-based and this film embodies and is about and practices circumvented emotion? Is this film actually a litmus test?"
A Sense Of Being Alone Permeates The Film
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 09/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the film "Tony Takitani," director Jun Ichikawa gives the viewer a sense of isolation and loneliness that one does not find with too many other directors. I have not read the short story that the film is based on, but one does not need to. With a third person narrative, and a minimal use of the actors' interaction, the film makes you feel very lonely. Which I am sure is exactly what the director was aiming for. The cinematography is beautiful, and at the same time, compliments the film, as Ichikawa's use of the camera gives you a feeling of the same loneliness that the protagonist, Tony Takitani (Issey Ogata) is going through. In fact, Tony Takitani wears his loneliness on his face. And every shot of him in the film is permeated with a sense of loneliness. You can sense it, and feel it.
I really liked the beginning of the film, where we see Tony Takitani's father, (also portrayed by Ogata) lying in a prison cell. The war has just come to an end, and the isolation of being imprisoned, alone and without the contact of others, is a great introduction to the film. As it is this films opening scene that gives the viewer a prelude to what the films main protagonist feels: A sense of isolation and loneliness. The third person narrative also works well by incorporating a dialogue between the viewer and the film, where we are further removed from the films protagonist--as we sense his self-isolation from those around him. This in turn, gives the film an even greater sense of loneliness: The very sense of isolation and being cut off from others that Tony Takitani himself feels.
The film is slow paced, and is only 75 minutes long. Tony Takitani is an illustrator who has always been alone. However, he meets a woman who will change his life. And although Tony is alone most of the time, it is due to his wife that he must now travel and go out to dinner. Not to mention the shopping with her. The films narrator even relates how they have gone to Europe, where she has purchased some of her clothes. So in one sense, although we are not privy to this, we know that Tony has gone places. His wife Eiko (Rie Miyazawa) is a compulsive shopper who desires the the best in fashion. But, as in life, there will be moments of tragedy. The film while slow and quiet, was worth the purchase to me. Sometimes these kind of films are needed. However, it will not appeal to some viewers, therefore, I recommend you rent it first, as it is not a film for everyone. [Stars: 3.5]"
Beautiful. . .odd. . .memorable
The Concise Critic: | New England | 09/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"He was lonely; she was beautiful; and, for a while, it really, really worked. The story is flawed. (But who am I to pass such judgment? This movie will be remembered.) It will be remembered (aside from the remarkable cinematography) because the viewer feels the loneliness, the temporary joy, and the loss central to this movie."