by Jim Ridley
International Lens: Tony Takitani
Where: Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12
Reading a novel or short story by Haruki Murakami is like picking at a thread that eventually threatens to unravel the world. The movie version of “Tony Takitani,” a 2002 Murakami story that appeared in The New Yorker, evokes the same sense of disarming simplicity as a gateway to extraordinary depths.
In 75 unwasted minutes, director Jun Ichikawa etches the life of an emotionally crippled illustrator (Issei Ogawa) who finds new love, and with it a new terror of his former loneliness. As if to underscore the isolation of Tony and his passively troubled bride (Rie Miyazawa), an off-screen narrator does most of the talking; the characters sometimes finish his sentences, as if desperate to make themselves known.
When combined with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s delicate piano score and the tidy, rigidly composed images, which the camera scans from left to right like a photocopier of the memory, the effect reminded me of graphic novelist Chris Ware’s achingly plaintive Jimmy Corrigan series — or the understated desperation of good ol’ Charlie Brown. The movie is an exquisite miniature: If you have ever watched your sleeping lover and felt the helpless vulnerability that adoration brings, its slow fade of an ending is a punch to the heart.
In subtitled Japanese, it screens free as part of Vanderbilt’s International Lens series, introduced by Vanderbilt associate professor of history Yoshikuni Igarashi; Tomorrow night, Wednesday, Nov. 13, brings the transgender documentary Trans at 7:30 p.m.