Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who has translated many American authors, finds a worthy interpreter himself in Jun Ichikawa, whose new film adapts one of the writer’s short stories. It’s a fortuitous match: while Murakami is an established figure in the West, Ichikawa has yet to break through, his quiet voice confined to Japan. One wonders whether the pleasing but very muted Tony Takitani will be heard among the summer blockbusters (2046, Last Days, Broken Flowers, Pulse, and The World, that is). In this minor and exactingly executed piece, Tony Takitani is an illustrator who from childhood seemed destined to solitude, a fate written into his mockable American name. He marries, but his wife, a voracious dresser who fills a room with all her clothes, dies young. So, perhaps molded by a formative Vertigo viewing (the dates seem possible), Tony hires a woman of similar proportions to wear and bring to life his wife’s widowed wardrobe. Tony Takitani unfolds with a dreamlike continuity of texture, achieved through a drained palette, a spare set, and most simply Tony’s calm voice-over and presence. Brevity is a defining virtue, for at 75 minutes the film is sheltered from dramatic expectations. Ishikawa wiggles free of total thrall to Murakami through a filmic touch more convincing than the frequent scrolling pans: casting Issey Ogata as both Tony and his jazz musician father, and Miyazawa Rie as wife and doppelgänger. One sometimes gets a sense of how the film might be overly infused with the care shaded into constraint that inform Tony’s case-study personality. Still, this adaptation makes for an excellent afternoon reverie on its own.
Opens July 29