The third movie of writer-director Ichikawa Jun (1948-2008), “Kaisha monogatari: Memories of You” (1988) for a long time seems a placid, almost somnolent portrayal of Hanaoaka (Hajme Hana), a salaryman about to retired after 34 years, 18 of them in administration, with which he was not very comfortable. Writing a statement for the company newsletter, he seems to realize for the first time that “It wasn’t just my job. It was my life…. I spoke more with my staff than with my own son.”
He is embarrassed about other having to plan a retirement party for him, but is revitalized (if not rejuvenated) by the formation of a swing band in which he plays drums, as he had long, long ago. Though the salarymen hadn’t played in public since the mid-1950s, they turn in creditable performances of some standards, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
He also sympathizes with a young female employee (Nishiyama Yumi) who is having romantic frustrations with a coworker (he is philandering). The young woman and senior administrator go out by themselves for a party, but don’t talk about her romantic frustrations—or his emptiness without work to organize his days any more.
Some acting out —major and minor — comes and Hanaoaka returns home as everyone else is going to work (at least the tram car is empty except for him and his boquet). There is none of the triumph of the old man (Shimura) in Kurosawa’s great “Ikiru.”
Hajme won a blue ribbon for his restrained, melancholy performance.
Ichikawa Jun’s “Tony Takatani” (2004) was hailed by many as minimalist cinematic art, but was a big disappointment to me. It didn’t just seem longer than 70 minutes, but took me more than 70 minutes to watch, since several times my mind drifted and I had to go back to hear (read the subtitles for) the beginning of a sentence (or the referent back to a previous sentence that had not registered).
©2016, Stephen O. Murray