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Lost in Translation.

i saw lost in translation a couple of days ago, and i've been thinking about it, on and off, because while i quite honestly liked it, i was also left with the slight feeling of having sat through the observations of an egocentric american, lamenting that the world wasn't more like, well, white, upper class america.

the film isn't about that. i know this. rather, it's about placing two people who happen to be american, in a city similar yet alien, which is tokyo, and then allowing watching them connect as they cannot connect with wives, husbands, and the world around them. i know that this is what the film is about, and i even enjoyed it on that level: i could have happily watched scarlett johansson for hours, the same with bill murray, who i've always enjoyed.

and yet...

yet, in scenes where murray tries to adjust the shower head to his height, but can't, and wear the pair sit in a sushi bar, talking to the chef who doesn't understand a word from them, to the talk show, and countless other things... i couldn't escape feeling that i was suppose to chuckle and go, 'uh huh, difference, isn't difference odd? can't it be more like home? who said these silly foreigners could make a city like this?' which, i think you will agree, is an odd experience to have. but i can't shake the feeling the coppola, in some way, was hinting that the two characters would be more comfortable if the city was just more like, well, america.

i can't decide exactly where i think it comes through. i suppose i could spend hours picking it apart to find this little thing, but i did enjoy the film, and really, i can spend my time doing better things. i'm sure it'll linger, and if i rewatch it again, i'll be curious to see if it remains, and if johansson and murrary's characters either become more self centred, running straight into obnoxious, or if they continue to be detached, isolated individuals, stuck in their lives and trying to figure out where to go. for the moment, however, i am responding to the latter, and it's what makes the movie work for me, even when, at times, it could have done with a stronger narrative, or where coppola allowed herself to be too restrained, and could have done with making her narrative sharper by playing some moments differently.

either way, however, i liked it.

Comments

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catvalente
Jan. 15th, 2004 02:43 am (UTC)
I think there were some cheap jokes. After all, my shower works fine for my height, and I live in Japan.

But I noticed, in the mainly American audience in the theatre, the laughter was tinged with desperation, with a frenetic identification--people don't understand what I'm saying every day--the look on Murray's face as he is being shouted at in Japanese is practically glued on our faces here. And the culture is baffling, not just to Americans. The talk show is a stereotype because that's what they look like here. Sure, it's always funny to see a fish out of water, but when the other fish see it, their gills burn in secret fear that someday they'll know what dry sand feels like.

For th emost part, I cried through half the movie. Because I am alone in Japan almost all the time. When she was on the phone trying to explain that she didn't feel anything in the temple, I almost had to leave the theatre.

Japan is perhaps the best place in the world to lose your soul. If it's already lost, then Japan is the best place to forget you ever had it. The movie, when it got past the gaijin jokes, showed this pretty well. So I'm willing to forgive.
benpeek
Jan. 15th, 2004 03:37 am (UTC)
well, like i said, i'm willing to not focus on a small part of my focus on the movie. (it is the part worth writing about though, but isn't that always the way.)

in the last forty odd minutes since typing this entry, i've been thinking about it, and maybe, perhaps the egocentric bit comes fromt he fact that i am not american. would i have reacted differently if both characters had been australian? dunno, since the film wasn't done that way, but maybe what i am seeing is two foreigners in a foreign land and thus, when everything is not like 'home' (in this case american) it comes across slightly egocentric to me, whereas, perhaps, if they were australian, i'd identify with the characters just that extra level?

just thoughts, really, since i honestly couldn't say, and it was only a small part of me in the film. i liked, for example, the looks on murray's face, and the bit where johansson was walking through the video arcade, and the bits of isolation that came through when either of them flipped on their television and caught japanese game shows and dubbed films.
catvalente
Jan. 15th, 2004 03:44 am (UTC)
Being American sucks these days. It means you have no cred.

When you live abroad as long as I have, the fact of being "American" is much less a part of your psyche. I lived in the UK before this, and I was never as alienated there, even though the culture was quite different.

Everything is isolating here. It is to anyone who isn't Japanese--and it's designed to be. Foreigners are not welcome, whether American or Australian or Korean. It is a very strange culture and one that erases the individual in favor of the technological--that's weird for ANYONE.

I would have identified if they were British or Australian or Swedish or whatever. American doesn't mean crappy and childish. It doesn't mean good either, and I don't think that's what the movie was trying to say. It was about lost people--and people are lost in every country. It's just more striking here.
benpeek
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:06 am (UTC)
you're right in that the movie wasn't trying to say anything about americans in particular. it wasn't saying anything about japanese people, either. which, you know, is why my reaction after the film is a bit surprising to me, cause i know this fully.

america (and americans) get bad press, which i guess is just one of those things that comes with being the world's superpower, and with such a dominant consumer culture throughout the western world. sadly, some of that bad press is that american's get cast as childish and self centred, but you can find childish and self centred people everywhere, and I certainly don't want to suggest that there is any truth to americans as a whole being that way with the previous post. was just tracing thoughts.

(however, one of the things i'm fascinated by is the reach that american culture has in the world and the way countries react to it, but that's got nothing to do with the film, and nothing to do with anything, but i'm adding it to this post anyhow.)
catvalente
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:09 am (UTC)
Actually, I think that it's interesting how The Last Samurai overtly and Lost in Translation subtly make Americans complicit in the techno-whirlpool that is Japan. I think that, just a little, the innocence of the Americans abroad is a dig at the fact that most of us are oblivious as to how our country has shaped other nations--at this point, nothing is all that "far from home"
benpeek
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:12 am (UTC)
i've not seen the last samurai, which opened here today, actually. i'm not quite sure if i will--the whole tom cruise factor, in that i find him kind of dull to watch.
catvalente
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:13 am (UTC)
He blows, but it's worth it to see the Japanese actors--to a man (and woman) they are amazing.
benpeek
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:18 am (UTC)
cool, i'll keep it in mind for when it goes cheap. or if nothing good arrives in a cinema soon and i find myself there.
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