Tony Takitani (トニー滝谷)

Director: Jun Ichikawa

 Tony (Issey Ogata) is an unmarried middle-aged illustrator. Tony’s life-story is one of solitude: his mother dying in childbirth, his father (a talented jazz performer) always away on tour or playing the local jazz scene at night. Tony's loner nature, and his American-sounding name (given to him by his father with the best of intentions), serve to alienate him from other children his age. As an adult, Tony’s detailed drawings land him a successful and lucrative career as a technical illustrator, but he remains single until he falls for Eiko (Rie Miyazawa), a client 15 years his junior and a compulsive shopper. As their relationship blossoms, Tony suggests that she curtail her shopping habit, with disastrous consequences.

Written and directed by Jun Ichikawa, Tony Takitani is a faithful adaptation of the short story by Haruki Murakami (best known for his novel ‘Norwegian Wood'). Murakami was inspired to write the story after seeing the imprint ‘Tony Takitani’ on a T-shirt at a garage sale in Maui. The film includes almost all of the prose from the original, which helps to recreate the unique, otherworldly feel synonymous with Murakami’s stories. (You can read the complete original short story online)

This prose is included by way of a voiceover narration, featuring the modulated, slightly husky tones of Hidetoshi Nishijima. Interestingly, the lead characters often take over narration duties and speak their thoughts aloud in the third person. The film is primarily a meditation on loneliness, and this character narration works well and succeeds in creating a lonely atmosphere.

Other interesting storytelling innovations include the almost documentary-style introduction, featuring a montage of wartime photos of Shanghai and post-war occupied Japan. The camera drifts from scene to scene throughout large portions of the film, a style reminiscent of the Paul Thomas Anderson film, ‘Magnolia’.

Somehow none of the film feels like familiar ground. For example, one plot development recalls the Hitchcock film 'Vertigo', and both these films touch on the theme of obsession. Despite this, Tony still feels distinctly original because of the unexpected resolution (or perhaps ambiguous lack of resolution) to this storyline, coupled with Murakami's unique voice.

Typically Murakami’s characters are quite deliberately ordinary, but have at least one interesting characteristic that makes them extraordinary. Getting to know the (very small cast of) characters in this film and trying to understand their motivations is fascinating, and the deceptively simple story takes some very intriguing and unexpected turns. Despite its general feeling of otherworldliness, the story does not contain any trademark Murakami departures into the supernatural, and is instead a straight exploration of the characters and their emotions.

There are memorable images to be found in unlikely places, which is fitting as the story itself explores ideas about memories and feelings that fade, some that remain, and others that replace those forgotten.

The film is accompanied throughout by a memorable and heart-wrenching piano score by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Sakamoto is best known for winning an Academy Award for his work on 'The Last Emperor' and as a member of the group ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’.

Strange and sad, serious and adult in tone, Tony Takitani is a beautiful and haunting contemplation of loneliness.

 

Introduced by Greg Corbett  

Greg Corbett has been visiting Japan since 1998 and has a keen interest in its language and culture. 
He teaches Academic English and helps to organise a number of Japanese cultural events in Adelaide.