With "Tony Takitani," the lovely adaptation of acclaimed author Haruki Murakami's short story, love isn't so much a cure for what ails you as it is a temporary distraction from the human condition in the 21st century. It poses the question: Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? -- and answers it with an ellipses.

Loneliness is an affliction with which the resolutely self-contained Tony Takitani (Issey Ogata) is intimately aware. He was pretty much born alone: His dad (also played by Ogata) is a roving jazz musician who's not home much; his mother died shortly after his birth. As almost an afterthought, he's named for one of his father's American buddies. (Having an American name in postwar Japan only serves to further Tony's isolation.) He's alone, and he likes it that way, until, of course, he falls in love with a much younger woman, Eiko (Rie Miyazawa). "I'm self-centered," she tells him, an admission that foreshadows trouble ahead.

Directed by Jun Ichikawa, the film is set against a solo jazz piano score and unfolds novelistically, at a spare and leisurely pace bound to confound the less patient. There's little dialogue, with the dispassionate narrator making lyrical, running commentary as the actors (who play dual and sometimes triple roles) occasionally echo a line or two of the narration. Still, it's a marvelously moody meditation, beautiful to look at and beautiful to ponder as the camera slowly pans from one scene to the next, framing life as still life.

-- Teresa Wiltz

For Tony Takitani (Issey Ogata), one is the loneliest number.