10.10.05

an unremarkable life

(check back here for the drawing tomorrow...off to bed now)

I was sitting in an extremely long meeting on Friday and, naturally, my mind wandered.

I don't know what triggered the thought (maybe the sense of what a waste of time the meeting was!), but I was suddenly thinking about how the past 10 years of my life had gone by real quick. It was not uneventful and there is much to be thankful for. But how quick the time had passed and... well, the point is I realised that the next 10 years would gone in an equally brief blink of the eye. Oooh, by then I would be 41...

Ah, so I guess this is the start of a mid-life panic. And after this weekend, I could perhaps call this a "Tony Takitani-phobia".

J and I watched Jun Ichikawa's Tony Takitani at the Singapore History Museum yesterday. This is another Murakami-related post, since the film is an adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story of the same title (there's an English translation of the story by Jay Rubin in The New Yorker).

The senior Takitani, a jazz musician who lived through Shanghai in WWII, plays an unremarkable music -
"It was not art, but it was music made by the skillful hand of a professional, and it could put a crowd in a good mood."
Tony Takitani is like his father, taking his talent for producing technically exact drawings from art college into a commercially successful but artistically unremarkable career illustrating machines. Tony Takitani's wife is a so-so-looking girl whose life is given some meaning and "beauty" by the designer clothes she wears and is obsessed with buying. She literally fills up her clothes, as the clothes figuratively fills up the emptiness that is her life. And in the same way, Tony Takitani's own lonely, empty existence is filled up by her physical presence

It's a harsh story, and perhaps a pretty harsh critique of modern society. But the harshness is tempered by the deadpan writing, which doesn't leave much room for judgement, and a humour that suggests some empathy for the unremarkableness.

Of course, the big challenge for a director is how on earth do you make an interesting movie out of the unremarkableness of an empty, lonely life?

Jun Ichikawa chose to make everything beautiful. And perhaps he had a stronger sense of sympathy for Takitani and a wish for a happier resolution than Murakami. The sparse interior of the apartment is beautiful in its chic minimalism. Tony Takitani's wife is played by the beautiful Rie Miyazawa. Trust a Japanese director to make loneliness and emptiness so aesthetically beautiful. But I am not sure if in making such a stylised and beautiful movie, the director was consciously mimicking the beautiful but essentially empty music/art/clothes the Takitanis (father, son, wife) fill their lives with, or had he unknowingly exhibited their same symptoms!

If I had to summarise, I would say it's a story about an unremarkable life. It was not an uneventful life. Tony Takitani, in Murakami's deliberately efficient narrative, has his fair share of career and romantic scores and joys, and grief. But it was unremarkable nonetheless. The way I guess most of our lives are unremarkable.

4 comments:

said...

thanks for the link to the story. (missed the 2nd screening of the film though!) maybe you are right. most of our lives may be unremarkable. one of my friends said " i just want to get by..." that's how it is sometimes.

tscd said...

It's difficult to find fulfilment in the everlasting monotony of work, posessions, pleasure, knowledge. Chasing after the wind, I think it's called.

ampulets said...

i guess in the end however you end up thinking about your own life, it's just vanity anyway - which knows no contentment or others. perhaps the characters in tony takitani are kind of pathetic, despite what they do or feel, is not because their lives are mediocre, but because in the end, it's all only about their own loneliness and existence.

fortycalibernap said...

unremarkable in the worst of our subjective pathos. . .

remarkable in what pulls us out of that subjective blank, and what we find in our routine once we're out there that suddenly becomes a little more profound.

and your art, your eye(s), your perception spread more widely than you imagine. it's stuff like yours that makes me realize what's to be made of mine.

thank you.

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