Films about isolation and loneliness tend to slide toward violence — think Taxi Driver and Repulsion — compelled in that direction as much by the cinema’s revulsion for stasis as by character motivation. Japanese director Jun Ichikawa (Osaka Story) resists this pressure in his latest film, Tony Takitani (2004), by endlessly sliding his camera to the right. For much of the movie, scenes slowly scroll by like passing windows in a long hall. (A director of commercials, Ichikawa gives every shot a cold, surface sheen, as if we are watching the whole thing through glass.) Ichikawa’s sliding camera proves a simple, elegant means of drawing us in to the life of the film’s title character (Issei Ogata of Yi Yi), an industrial illustrator who spends most of his time alone, either hunched over his drafting table or seated before single-portion meals. Released on DVD by Strand and based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, Tony Takitani begins with Tony in childhood, the neglected son of a jazz musician, but before we know it he is middle-aged, a shock as much to him as it is to us. The arrival of pretty temp worker Eiko (Rie Miyazawa) at his office spurs Tony to action. Once married, however, he discovers that Eiko has a penchant for clothes shopping; she’s voracious for Versace. Eiko’s obsession proves to be her tragic downfall, however, once again leaving Tony alone, this time with a house full of empty clothes — until the film takes a glancing third-act turn toward Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Throughout, a third-person narrator lends Tony Takitani the quality of a fairy tale, albeit (owing to Ichikawa’s spare style) an eminently modern one, about a man who comes briefly to life, only to slowly fade away.
— Paul Malcolm
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Other recommended new releases: Young Mr. Lincoln (DVD). Also released this week: VHS/DVD: Lord of War; Two for the Money. DVD: Adventures of Superman: The Complete Second Season; All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos; Away Awake; Le Chignon d’Olga; Doogie Howser M.D., Season Three; Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Gendernauts; Incautos; Making Grace; The Man; The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Season Three; Mr. Show: The Complete Collection; Sueno; Take a Hard Ride; The Tall Texan; That’s Black Entertainment; Underclassman; Venom; Volume One: Walt Disney’s Funny Factory With Mickey; Volume Two: Walt Disney’s Funny Factory With Donald; We Were So Beloved; Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken; Wilma.