Reading a novel or short story by Japanese author 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. Tony Takitani opens this weekend at the Belcourt. Please, somebody, see it.
• Jeanne Moreau coos “Je t’aime…je t’aime” directly to the viewer at the start of Louis Malle’s 1957 thriller Elevator to the Gallows; for most movies, it would be strictly downhill from there. But Malle’s feature debut, a crisp noir exercise about the unraveling of a perfect crime, has the paired virtues of black-and-white Parisian location shooting and Miles Davis’ riveting dark-city score. The plot takes too long to reach its obvious destination, but mood was always the big appeal of the French genre workouts that preceded the Nouvelle Vague. And Moreau stalking Paris by night, accompanied only by Davis’ trumpet, is a workable definition of cool. The Rialto Pictures reissue opens this weekend at the Belcourt.