Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Murakami

I had a ready-made topic for today. (If you're at all curious, I'm not "banking" posts - in other words writing a few in a day and then posting them on days when I don't have time to write. I feel that goes against the spirit of this blog challenge. I'm mentally banking ideas, but that's all.) I was going to write about my teeth. After all, this is the last day for about a year and a half that I won't have metal in my mouth. Tomorrow is B-Day: braces day. I was going to write about the whole thought process about getting my teeth fixed - how my smile has affected my self esteem, etc. - but it's not something I feel much like analyzing today. Maybe I want to enjoy my crooked smile for one more day! Perhaps tomorrow when I get home from the orthodontist I'll do an examination of my feelings on straight teeth and what life is going to be like as a 30-something single male living with braces.

(A quick aside: According to one site I've visited, once I get the braces on I should be seeking out women with brazilian waxes and staying clear of the "bush supporters." As one male adult with braces wrote, "I'm afraid to get her hair caught in my brackets." Ouch. I bet you wish I was writing on this topic...) Anyway, the braces go on at around 1:30, so send some positive vibes my way at that time.

Instead, I want to write about the film I saw last night: Tony Takitani. I had one of those fortuitous moments yesterday while reading the paper - which in and of itself is somewhat fortuitous since I rarely buy the Saturday paper these days. There was a review in the Globe's book section on the latest Haruki Murakami work, a short story collection called Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I read it a couple of weeks ago, and while not all of the stories were successful, it was overall a great read. Of course I'm already "on board" with the author: I've enjoyed all of Murakami's works, even those that some may consider lesser works, such as Sputnik Sweetheart. (His masterwork is The Wind-Up Chronicle. Highly recommended.)

I know I tend to overuse the word "sensibility," but it makes sense in this context: I'm just hip to Murakami's particular - and some might add peculiar - sensibility. And what is that sensibility? I can't say it any better than this sentence, which I found on Wikipedia: "Murakami's fiction is humorous and surreal, and at the same time reflects an essential alienation, loneliness and longing for love." Moreover, Murakami's protagonists, usually male (and much of his work is written in first person), tend to like women, whiskey and jazz. Sign me up!

So it was a surprise to read in the generally favourable review that one of the stories in the new collection, Tony Takitani, has been made into a film. Even better, it happened to be one of my favourite stories in the collection. The story revolves around the title character, Tony, who is a successful illustrator. (The first part of the story centres on his father, a jazz trombonist who is imprisoned in China during the second world war.) He meets and marries a woman when he's in his 30s. It's only after he meets her that he realizes how lonely his life has been. While he loves his wife and his new life, there's one thing that disturbs him: she's a compulsive clothes shopper, to the extent that they have to dedicate one whole room in their apartment to her wardrobe. Anyway, I don't want to spoil the rest for those that might to read it.

The film, released last year and which I found on DVD at Suspect Video yesterday, is pretty much faithful to the story. I was more interested in whether the director would be able to capture the Murakami sensibility. Rather, if it would capture what I feel is the Murakami sensibility.

One of the reasons I love to read is that it's a solitary exercise, one that I can bring my own precepts and prejudices to and not be questioned about. It's also a reason why I've always struggled with public readings (not to mention that I have a terrible attention span!): hearing the voice of the reader rather than my internal voice is bound to affect how I judge and enjoy the work. Movie adaptations can be particularly jarring. I remember seeing the film Witches of Eastwick, based on a novel (a minor one) by John Updike, many years ago and thinking, "Wait a minute, this can't be the same book I read." By their very nature, film adaptations of novels will almost always be a disappointment.

The good news is that the film Tony Takitani was quite good. For one, it was short! I particularly like short films (must be that attention span thing...). More important, I think it did capture what I like about Murakami stories: it was sedate and intelligent yet also passionate, funny and (of course) surreal. There's always a tinge of mystery to Murakami's characters: they tend to play their emotions close to the chest, but you know there's something brewing behind the facade. This film captured that. And I guess the highest praise I can offer is that it made me want to re-read the story. (Unfortunately it was a library book. I'll buy the collection when it's released in paperback.)

And I guess I'm struggling with this post because I've got the whole "bush supporter" and braces thing on the brain. Tomorrow, I'm sure.

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