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Tony Takitani

Tony Takitani is an adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story. Not an awful lot happens in the story itself: a particularly lonely man, an animated cadaver, who has a fractured relationship with his father goes through the motions, earning a lot of money but hardly living, and eventually decides that he might as well get a wife to try and initiate a bit of drama and an end to meals-for-one.
Things start well and Tony emerges from his cocoon of melancholy and inertia, but soon starts to see the downside of not being a hermit – you start caring for people. He frets about possible calamities and notes with increasing displeasure his wife’s all-encompassing addiction to pummelling his bank account in order to fill a room of the house with designer clothes. One subtly savage montage shows a series of close-ups of shoes wearing their owner rather than the other way round, walking hither and thither, out of control but maintaining a semblance of normality, a thin façade of equilibrium.
She reneges on her habit, briefly, with fatal consequences and Tony fails to endure the loss, replacing her with almost physically identical hired-help that he gets to dress up in the deceased woman’s redundant wardrobe. He thinks better of this idea and sends her away with a week worth of attire and a request to keep schtum about the whole thing. He sells the rest of the clothes and then, when his father dies, cuts his last link to the world by selling his bequeathed jazz vinyl. He is absolutely alone, as he was, but resorting to the comfort of a familiarly dead existence, we already know, is no answer. The film leaves us, and Tony, hanging on the telephone, desperate to re-connect with someone, many blank years yawning ahead.
The story itself is a predictable tragedy that essays the futility of attempting to go it alone. The central character is conditioned to isolation, but given a tantalising glimpse of the alternative can’t go back. His, and everyone else’s, solitude is captured brilliantly by the film. The slow sweep of the camera, which refuses to dwell on anything for fear of being caught looking, so it feels, lends an air of glacial ruthlessness to the lives observed that both Murakami and the director Jun Ichikawa clearly ascribe to. We’re peering into lives that are impinged on by quiet chaos and imbued with sadness, but it’s never a maudlin film. Indeed, the clever, confounding way the shots are sometimes framed, and the gapingly incomplete feeling sets create a stark, marginalised theatre of complicity that both refuses to avoid the desperation of the protagonists and almost celebrates the inherent hoplessness of the human condition. There is a sense as the film draws on that this is a defiantly reasoned retort to life as meaningless. Everyone is pressed up against the margins, framed like Hopper, and everything seems half-finished, like an elusive memory. Having the actors utter parts of the voiceover adds to this sense of dreamlike, makeshift creativity, and works brilliantly, lending the performers a sense of resigned equanimity that laces the whole thing with poignancy and elegance.
The film is a lonely place to inhabit for even 76 minutes, but it does not suffer for comparisons to Ozu, wears its heavy convictions lightly and when Tony breaks into an unfamiliar smile as he watches his wife and the unfolding of a life he might never have contemplated, it’s a smile you know can’t last but is no less meaningful for that.
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