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A man who has lived a life of emotional isolation discovers the dark side of falling in love in this drama from Japanese filmmaker Jun Ichikawa. Tony Takitani (Issey Ogata) is the son of a Japanese musician with a passion for jazz who spent most of World War II in Shanghai, and was later sentenced to a stretch in prison following the war. Tony was named in honor of an American serviceman who befriended his father, but his name also earned him the suspicion of his classmates, and he had few close friends as a child, a situation aggravated by the death of his mother. While Tony displayed great technical skill as an artist, his work lacked feeling, and he ended up pursuing a successful career as a technical illustrator. One day, Tony meets Eiko Konuma (Rie Miyazawa), a beautiful woman working with one of his clients, and he is immediately entranced. Feeling as if he's found his soul mate, Tony becomes fully inspired for the first time in his life, and soon asks Eiko for her hand in marriage. Eiko accepts, but before long Tony discovers she has a financially ruinous fondness for expensive designer clothes. When Tony asks Eiko to cut back on her shopping sprees, it triggers a series of events which show Eiko isn't all Tony imagined her to be, and throws his new satisfaction with life into turmoil. Tony Takitani received its North American premiere at the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival, and was also screened as part of the World Cinema series at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Sound and visuals are what movies are made of, yet in Tony Takitani, director Jun Ichikawa somehow communicates primarily through feeling. This is a work of profound, aching sadness, made exquisite more by what isn't heard and seen than what is, as Ichikawa brings writer Haruki Murakami's short story to the screen with a sense of restraint, apparent in every aspect of the process (storytelling, acting, music, cinematography), that transforms the usual cinematic experience into something much closer to a prolonged meditation. Issei Ogata plays the title character, son of a jazz musician who gave Tony his strange, Americanized name. Like his father, who is no more fit to be a dad than Tony is to be a son, Tony lives a life of total solitude. But solitude isn't the same as loneliness, as the middle-aged man learns when he meets and marries the much younger Eiko (Rie Miyazawa). At that point, as we're told in voice-over (a wonderfully low key performance by Hidetoshi Nishijima, who actually does more talking than the characters themselves), the newly-content Tony now is beset by feelings of terror and dread as he imagines what life would be like without her. But Eiko is no more connected to the real world than Tony, and her addiction to designer clothes ("they fill up what's missing inside me") eventually leads to tragedy. That happens in a sequence that might be amusing, in a black kind of way, in any other film, but not in this one. As it is, it triggers some rather strange behavior on Tony's part, as well as his return to a state of impenetrable, ineffable melancholy. Tony Takitani is not a warm experience. The dialogue is spare, the scenery severe, the colors muted, and Ichikawa's directing, though masterful, keeps us at arm's length. But there is greatness in this beautifully-rendered, 75-minute movie. --Sam Graham
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Top customer reviews
TT's misunderstanding has gone as far as getting it compared to Vertigo. Vertigo certainly had a loneliness and tragedy character After this similitude Vertigo drifts away from our normal and mundane world, a though challenge for filmmakers to tackle (let alone the public). TT, instead, moves toward it, specifically TT's, a person in conformity with his life, enjoying a simple but productive life by profiting from his talent in art by industrious means. Sure, his gift wasn't mundane, cut the makers some slack.
That comfort comes to an end after his successive interactions with people eventually lead to develop one relation that ends up in marriage to Eiko, a marriage that both blesses and curses his life. His life gets complicated, yet, he wants to stays in, the mere thought of losing his wife terrifies him at the beginning. Eiko doesn't belittle him for his fears; in fact all of this becomes a virtuous cycle or self-reinforcing relation. But once TT calms down, Eiko shows more and more of her flaws, like any human.
The movie's story writer -Haruki Murakami- chose Eiko's flaw to be addicted to buying fashion clothes, a classy touch, fit for the movie. Nonetheless it becomes as troublesome as any other addiction (like gambling, drugs, risk taking, etc.) The origin of that flaw seemed to be her way to cope with her inconformity with simple life and/or incapacity to engage in meaningful activities or hobbies to give purpose to her life; anything can be speculated here. At least Eiko's addiction was more understandable in the movie than in the original story that mentions that TT and she did have conversations, large ones, meaning: communication. Besides, the original story displays the Japanese dream of seducing women out of kindness: TT's father, Shozaburo, used to get sex out his niceness. Getting sex out of niceness seems disturbing in the West, but it's often approached in Japanese culture, a great recent example is "Ristorante Paradiso" anime. TT, in particular, was better off without it.
This movie feels indeed like a visual poem, especially by the melancholic background music and with most of the talk coming from a distant narrator. But you will only feel that after you cleanse yourself from the debris that the Western (mostly American) productions have piled up in your mind over your lifetime. Thus, TT is definitively not for everyone, Japanese included as one review showed it. Yes, I am aware that plenty of Japanese can be as vulgar and/or extroverted as anybody else in the world. I myself would've dumped this movie in other times. It was only after a while of watching more and more Japanese productions (with characters that I could relate to) and learning about them and their culture I was able to honestly enjoy it by the time I watched it.
Now to get Peter Jackson to shoot his version of Murakami's "Hard-Boiled Wonderland"!
-John Donne, Meditation XVII
Thanks to our local Arts Center, we were privileged to enjoy four thought-provoking foreign films this season. Each was extraordinarily good in its own way, yet it is TONY TAKITANI that remains strongest in memory. Set apart from the rest of his world by a foreign name, Tony would express his soul through art, but, ironically, his artistic precision is too exact, depicting reality with exceptional precision but thereby lacking in the symbolism and interpretation required of an artist, and he becomes a technical illustrator instead.
While his business is successful, it is a sterile profession that does nothing to link him to the rest of humanity. Tony is truly alone, separate, apart, an island in the human sea. It is a condition that he never desired, nor, I think, does he understand how it came to be, but his awareness of his "apartness" makes his social isolation even more painful.
Is there any succor for Tony? Any avenue through which he might be able to join with his fellow man, to leave his island of isolation behind, to feel fulfilled and accepted by others in a way that is meaningful and significant, something more than the sterile "success" of being an unfeeling illustrator? (Tony, of course, certainly feels; it is his profession that provides no outlet for feeling.) Indeed, Eiko enters his life when she comes as a customer but becomes his lover and his wife.
Yet, as all humans, Eiko has weaknesses. Hers is shopping and an inordinate love of clothing. After converting a goodly part of their apartment into a huge closet for Eiko's vast collection of clothing, Tony must finally urge her to control her obsession. For love of her husband and obedience to him, Eiko begins to return some of her recent purchases to the stores, yet weakens as she drives home and, turning around to reclaim a piece that she has just returned, is killed in a traffic accident.
Tony's utter devastation is undoubtedly amplified by the knowledge that it was his own admonition that ultimately resulted in the death of the one link he had ever established with humanity. He makes one pathetic attempt to pretend that the link can exist again by employing a young woman ostensibly as a secretary but in reality to play the role of Eiko by dressing in her clothes. As quickly as he does this, though, he realizes the futility of such a fiction and dismisses the woman. Alone once again in the now-empty closet that once held his wife's clothing, he lies on the floor, overcome by loneliness and isolation, conditions which have trapped him as surely as the prison cell that had contained his father years before.
Tony Takitani is the personification of the antithesis of the connectedness expressed in Donne's oft-quoted "Meditation." As John Donne proclaims all life to be interconnected and avows that the death of one diminishes the lives of all others, Tony Takitani shows us the separateness, the isolation, and the acrid taste of not belonging. It is of Tony that Simon and Garfunkle have sung, with bitter irony:
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.
The motion picture is a powerful commentary on social isolation and on suffering as it is expressed in one individual's emotional agony. I recommend it most highly to all who give an occasional thought to humanity.
Seeing it on DVD for the second time, I found it less appealing than the first time. Be sure to drink a lot of coffee before pressing PLAY.
Most recent customer reviews
the lead character Tony Takitani got an american name from his jazz obsessed father - where even his family name...Read more
The story is flawed. (But who am I to pass such judgment? This movie will be remembered.Read more