Sunday, August 06, 2006

2005 in review: #7

7. Keane (Lodge H. Kerrigan)

B-side: Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa)

After yesterday’s focus on women who seek to control their own destinies, now it’s time to take a 180-degree turn to shed some light on two films about men who suffer from varying degrees of mental illness. In one of the films, the illness is undiagnosed, but it quickly becomes apparent that all is not right with him. As for the other, well, that he isn’t well is never in question.

KEANE is a probing look at the life of the title character, a schizophrenic played in a bravura performance by Damian Lewis. Keane tries to live some semblance of a normal life in his more lucid moments, but all of his thoughts are consumed by his missing daughter, presumed kidnapped. Kerrigan wisely keeps the story with his protagonist, which not only places us in his shoes for the duration but also calls into question all that we don’t actually see- does he really have a daughter? Was she really kidnapped, or was it something else entirely? As the film progresses, Keane befriends a mother and her young daughter, and Kerrigan somehow avoids exploiting Keane’s relationship with the little girl, generating suspense not from whether he will harm her but rather whether he can control his illness when she’s around. In a year full of expansive canvases and ambitious projects, KEANE stuck out as a superior intimate character study.

No less intimate was TONY TAKITANI, based on a Hakuri Murakami story about a most lonely fellow. From a young age, Tony (the one and only Issey Ogata, from YI YI) learned to be self-sufficient and to keep his own counsel, and he grew up with little need for emotional contact. Blessed with a gifted hand but little sensitivity to guide it, Tony becomes a graphic designer. Eventually, he meets a woman and marries her, only to be taken aback by her obsession with buying designer fashions. The story, while simple (and short- the film is only 75 minutes long), is highly affecting, and Ichikawa’s style suits it perfectly, with left-to-right camera movements that give the impression of reading a book and a lovely, plaintive score by Ryuichi Sakamoto. TONY TAKITANI works less as a conventional narrative film than a musically-inflected mood piece, and on those merits it succeeds beautifully.

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