Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 03, 2005 12:55 am 
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Delicate perfection

Perhaps obviously a short story. It seemed like a short story. It turns out it is, by Haruki Murakami, and it appeared in translation in The New Yorker three years ago. It's constantly narrated, this film, in voiceover, sometimes with the actors finishing one of the narrator's sentences, as if they were in a tableau. A boy is born to a jazz musician father shortly after the end of the war and his mother dies, he is neglected, he learns the melancholy life of being alone, and he becomes an artist, eventually a successful illustrator specializing in depicting anything mechanical. He finds a wife, younger than himself, who makes him happy, but loving clothes, and now having a good source of income, because Tony Takitani is quite successful in his career as an illustrator, she becomes addicted to shopping. She buys an endless number of dresses, coats, shoes, so many a whole big room has to be set up to store them. When he loses her, he devises a strange ruse to transition himself into a life without her. The story fizzles away... but it's told with such tact and style that one walks out curiously satisfied.

Tony's backstory, his boyhood, his trombonist dad, his early artistic development, the far-off immediate postwar years, using black and white stills and movies, is constructed so engagingly and with such a fine hand in the editing that the central events, which may seem more a conceit than a story, are almost a letdown. The main section is presented in very faded greyed out color that is perfectly right for the delicacy of the telling. Left to right slow panning shots create an effect like turning pages; the wife's developing shopaholism is depicted in overlapping shots of her legs walking in a succession of elegant shoes and boots. Ryuichi Sakamoto's simple piano score resembles French impressionist compositions like Satie's "3 Pieces in the Form of a Pear."

If the subject matter is a bit thin, the style is such a delight that it doesn't matter, and the themes of loneliness, dress, possession, and money (relevant to our last century and to Japan's postwar history and perhaps to all human experience) are thought-provoking enough to make the minimalist content expand in the mind. A quiet, subtle, delightful film.

┬ęChris Knipp. Blog:

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