English Title: Tony Takitani
Country of Origin: Japan
Director: Jun Ichikawa
Producer(s): Motoki Ishida
Screenplay: Jun Ichikawa
Cinematographer: Taishi Hirokawa
Art Director: Yoshikazu Ichida
Editor: Tomoh Sanjo
A talented but socially detached illustrator Tony Takitani is the son of a saxophone playing drifter. As his mother passed away in childbirth Tony, spent much of his childhood alone, immersed in his sketches and this continues into his adult life as by his mid-30s, he is still a bachelor, dedicated to his work and resigned to his solitude. This changes when Eiko, a young editorial assistant steps into his office and leaves him breathless, and the they start seeing each other, and afraid that he may lose this chance for happiness, he asks Eiko to leave her boyfriend and marry him. Their life together is harmonious, but Eiko continues to indulge her uncontrollable passion for designer clothes, a vice rooted in her pre-married life and she stores her expensive purchases in a specially designed room in their house. Concerned for the mental health of his wife, Tony asks her to try and restrain herself. In an attempt to do so she returns some items, but on her way home from the boutique, she decides to go back, with the U-turn causing a tragic traffic accident in which she dies. Tony continues with his life, but haunted by his late wife’s wardrobe advertises for an assistant to wear her clothing whilst working in his office. Hisako, the young potential assistant whose figure perfectly matches that of Eiko, is overwhelmed when faced with such a lavish selection of clothing and begins to cry, leaving a deep impression on Tony and prompting him cancel the arrangement and sell the contents of the room.
Director Jun Ichikawa employs unconventional camera angles to visually render the melancholy atmosphere of Haruki Murakami’s short story, one of his many commentaries on the lonely landscape of urban life. As Murakami’s work is usually rich with autobiographical references and echoes of the author’s personal life, in Tony Takitani we find Murakami represented by the character of Tony’s father, Shozaburo Takitani, a self-cantered jazz musician who is completely immersed in his art. The love story that develops between Tony and Eiko is somewhat peculiar, with their ultimate inability to completely connect to each other or the world around them being rich with allusions to the spiritual emptiness of Japan’s post-war economic revolution. The very choice of Tony’s name comes from his father’s belief that a Westernized moniker could be useful on the eve of occupation and his own political ignorance, and emotional loss after his wife’s death, result in the lack of a conventional upbringing for his son that will make Tony a self-sufficient person and also liberates him from succumbing to any prescribed model of existence. However, while Tony is largely free to do whatever he wants with his life, after achieving professional success and settling into his daily routine, it is the possibility to share his existence with somebody similar means everything to him. Unfortunately, his beautiful younger wife compensates for her inability to find a meaningful goal by wrapping herself in luxurious and exquisite materials, with these designer items becoming her only means of expression. This leads to an addiction that she is simply not capable of fighting, putting it before her marriage and even her own life. The only living thing in their home is a cactus that she and Tony admire together, and in pursuing the latest fashions rather than making an effort to raise a family, she demonstrates her essentially escapist nature. The only point when the film departs from Murakami’s text is towards the end, when Tony makes an attempt to re reconnect with Hisako, reaching out from his solitude, but as his phone call remains unanswered, Ichikawa leaves us thinking that it is not only our deliberate choices, but the circumstances that we are living in, that play a part in determining our destiny.
Author of this review: Jelena Stojkovic