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TOKYO MARIGOLD
2001 - Jun Ichikawa
Japan
88
Opening Shot

The film opens with a young woman isolated in the middle of the frame outside a crowded public area. Next to her to is a young man who looks over at her and then turns and walks away. The woman is starring off not making eye contact. After the man leaves she looks and turns around. She says, "I'm not that lonely. I kind of like being by myself."

The Film

Tokyo Marigold is a beautifully understated film. Loosely based off a novel by the great Mariko Hayashi (“One Year Later”) this film is written and directed by Jun Ichikawa, who’s films always contain a complexity underneath the quiet and subtle style and narrative. Tokyo Marigold is a film that just works. To me it is near perfection. I love how the richness of the emotions or more specifically of the character emerge from the simplicity. The film is centered around Eriko, a lonely self-absorbed woman living without direction through a life in which she seeks happiness an meaning. Perhaps persuaded by expectations or the pressure of conformity, Eriko discovers the emotions of falling in love and disappointment. Ichikawa uses the metaphor of the marigold as an emotional backdrop or connection to the story, as it is a flower that blooms only during the season before an inevitable decay. Ichikawa never forces the issue with the film and as we look closer it becomes apparent that the essence of both the film and the characters is what is hidden. This realization comes to Eriko in a fitting ending as she watches herself on a TV commercial. Tokyo Marigold is a film of such rich complexity, most of which lies within the character of Eriko. Eriko is wonderfully played by Rena Tanaka. Tanaka gives an endearing performance that flawlessly works with the understated beauty of Ichikawa’s direction. Told with a quiet simplicity, and shot with radiant color patterns, Tokyo Marigold has the stylish tone of a lyrical dream.

The Filmmaker

One of the leading Japanese filmmakers of his generation Jun Ichikawa made nearly 20 films in a career that spanned just over 20 years until his sudden death at the age of 59. Ichikawa had the touch of a Zen master, recalling the genius of Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu with his minimalist style. Ozu clearly had an influence on the style and approach of Ichikawa but there is no doubt he had distinctive voice of his own. The theme of loneliness lies at the core of many of his films but Ichikawa's sense of humanity uplifts the idea of loneliness toward something hopeful and true. It was 2004's Tony Takitani (based upon the short story by Haruki Murakami) that earned Ichikawa worldwide acclaim but prior to that he made several of the essential Japanese films of the 1990s and early 2000s - notably Tokyo Marigold, as well as The Tokyo Siblings, Osaka Story, Tokyo Lullaby and Dying at a Hospital. Ichikawa died just prior to the premier of his 2008 film Buy a Suit.

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