Haruki Murakami Successfully Adapted
In the parallel worlds of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, the magic happens between the lines. His spartan lyricism, rendered in deceptively plain and airy prose, tends to shade without warning into deep, dizzying melancholy. For this rare film adaptation, director Jun Ichikawa smartly opts for a distilled minimalism, starting with his choice of source material: a mere wisp of a short story called "Tony Takitani." Both protagonist and story are barely there, but "Takitani" is Murakami in miniature, a brief, precise inventory of the novelist's themes: cosmic loneliness, the shadow of mortality, jazz, the coincidence of materialist abundance and spiritual barrenness. Given a Western name by his trombonist father (the suggestion of an American friend and the cause of some hostility in postwar Japan), the title character also inherits, as if by genetics, a lifelong burden of solitude. In early middle age, Tony (Issey Ogata) falls for and marries the much younger Eiko (Rie Miyazawa). Notwithstanding her expensive couture habit, the newlyweds enjoy a companionable relationship, until Eiko's bid to restrain her shopaholic tendencies results in a fatal accident. Shot in a wan, neutral palette that emphasizes its protagonist's muted desolation, Ichikawa's film is a model of economy. Tony Takitani conveys a powerfully tangible sense of loss and loneliness. In both concrete and existential terms, it's a film that dwells on what the dead leave behind and how the living carry on.
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