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Portrait of the Wind
AKA: Tagatameni
(translation: "For Whom Do We Exist?")


DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Trailer, Press Conference Footage, Interviews

Year: 2004
Director: Taro Hyugaji
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Erika, Teppe Koike, Chizuru Ikewaki
The Skinny: An intimate, often fascinating meditation on love, loss, and revenge. As always, Tadanobu Asano is terrific.
  Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Was it Confucius or Roger Moore who once said, "Before setting off on revenge, dig two graves"? Whatever the case, Portrait of the Wind (a.k.a. Tagatameni) is a revenge drama that explores that credo by eschewing the vicarious Kill Bill-like thrills of gratuitous violence in favor of a more realistic take on how the desire for vengeance can consume one's very soul. Discussing this film is impossible without spoiling its crucial first act turning point - even dancing around it would require the use of language that would immediately give away this major story point. So be warned, spoilers ahead!
     Portrait of the Wind centers on Tamio Murase (Tadanobu Asano), a world-traveling photographer who came home to take over the family business after his father's fatal heart attack. One day at the family photo studio, he finds a kindred spirit in Ayako (Erika) and the requisite sparks fly between them. The initial portions of the film deal with their budding romance, and it isn't long before the two become a serious couple, and Ayako is pregnant with Tamio's child. As compelling as all of this proves to be, the romance is merely setting the viewer up for film's abrupt, ultimately tragic narrative turn.
     While helping a lost child find his mother, Ayako is spotted by a creepy young man named Tatsuya Yamagishi (Teppe Koike). Unbeknownst to her, he promptly follows her home. When she answers the door, he barges in and brutally murders her - without the slightest hint of motive. Tamio, of course, is thoroughly devastated by the loss and feels even worse when he learns that Tatsuya's status as a juvenile affords him certain privileged rights despite his heinous crime. Not only are Tamio and his family barred from the court proceedings, but the secret trial itself has only one goal: rehabilitation, not punishment. Thus, a light sentence is guaranteed, and Tatsuya will be walking the streets in no time. If he was only a few years older, he'd be given serious jail time, but as a minor, the law is in his favor.
     In the year that follows, Tamio falls deeper in depression due to his heartbreak, unable to move on despite his friends' and family's encouragement. And thanks to the intrusiveness of a nosy reporter feeding him details about the case, Tamio finds his desire to avenge his beloved's death festering within, and he quickly finds himself purchasing a knife with the idea of someday exacting revenge. Even so, he eventually seems to find some joy in life by dating his childhood friend, the ever-devoted Mari (Chizuru Ikewaki) and piecing together the events of Ayako's past and her last photo project. But when Tamio discovers that Tatsuya has been set free, the viewer begins to wonder whether he'll succumb to his need for retribution or find happiness with the pure-hearted Mari.
     Portrait of the Wind is a film chock-full of any number of topics: a critique of Japan's criminal justice system, a commentary on the futility of revenge, the consequences of broken homes, a plea for the rights of victims and their families, an essay on the impossibility of finding any real closure in life, etc. But thankfully, it doesn't feel like a stereotypical "message movie" that really wants to hammer its audience over the head with its BIG TOPIC. Its "issues" are complicated and contradictory, meant more for serious after-movie discussion than for knee-jerk polemics or political agendas. Ultimately, Portrait of the Wind tackles the concept of revenge in a way that few films have: by focusing on the enormity of the act itself.
     As usual, Tadanobu Asano does a fine job, and is somehow able to convey in his eternal stoicism an inner life that simply wouldn't register in the face of a lesser actor. Interestingly enough, while the film sympathizes with his character by showing the depth of his sorrow and emphasizing that bloody retribution is more or less inevitable, it also makes it crystal clear that revenge would only end his life as well. The cruel irony of the film is that the somewhat morally justified actions of Tamio (ending the life of a killer who went unpunished) would make him face serious consequences in the criminal justice system that the cold, morally repugnant Tatsuya did not.
     Revenge aside, the film is an intimate, often fascinating meditation on love and life. The usage of flashbacks enlivens Portrait of the Wind considerably in that they help deepen one's impression of the loving relationship between Ayako and Tamio. Rather than rely simply on the concept itself - a murdered loved one - the film peels back the layers of the relationship to show both her character and her history. Slow and ponderous, Portrait of the Wind isn't for everyone, but it's certainly a welcome break from the norm. Although a more polished conclusion would have been preferable, Portrait of the Wind's ability to raise questions about a great number of issues without resorting to pat answers or political polarization, enhances its simply-told, ever-engaging tale considerably. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen