Lost in Translation

I’m very late on the scene, having just seen this movie today. And my opinion is evenly split between HATING it and LOVING it. What I loved:

1) Scarlett Johansson has belly rolls and cellulite and we see it

2) Bill Murray

3) The film’s small focus

4) Bill Murray

5) The scene where Bill Murray walks into the hotel and is immediately greeted with a fax from his wife sayng “You forgot Andrew’s birthday. I’m sure he’ll understand.” Fucking brilliant.

6) Bill Murray

7) Very good screenplay

8) Very fine images

What I hated:

1) Whitey in Japan thinks whitey’s ways are right, Japan’s ways are crayzeee..come on people, there are ways to register difference, even radical difference, with more respect. Buffooning the Japanese in their own country is ignorant and prissy rich-white-egomania. Watch Sans Soleil to see how it’s done right.

2) Opening shot of Scarlett Johansson’s ass in see-through panties. What the fuck?

3) Rich bored people who have so much but don’t know what to do with it. If you want me to feel for them you can’t have them walk around feeling superior all the time. “I’m a rich bored princess who doesn’t have anyone treating me like a magical enigma anymore, I’m so sad. I want daddy.” Women are not magic, not enigmas. Magic and mystery can’t be sustained in a human being, and the stereotype keeps men wanting the ephemeral, the thing that DOES NOT EXIST.

4) The cruel portrayal of the lounge singer. Couldn’t you have given her just one small gesture, a look, to give her some humanity, some sympathy? Does everyone but you and the one guy you approve of have to be portrayed as a laughable loser? Do you have any respect for humanity? For your own goddamned characters? Heartless.

But I have to say that just as I predicted, Sofia Coppola is indeed proving to be an auteur, dealing with the same strains in each of her films. Pro-magic, pro-mystery, that’s her thing. We don’t hear what Bill Murray whispers to her in the end. Mystery. She sings “I’m special,” at karaoke. The sex club is garish–too much information, no mystery. Japan is buffooned but also made attractively mysterious, and she never wants to go back again–because it’ll never be so mysterious again. Familiarity ruins the mystique. Bill Murray’s wifey is obsessed with real-world details–carpets, cabinets, kids, birthdays–and therefore there is no mystery. (It was all the same in Virgin Suicides, the girls were mysteries even to themselves, and jesus fucking christ did that piss me off. Attempt some understanding, fuckers. Don’t preserve women in some fucking mysterious glass case. Especially if you’re a woman directing the goddamn movie.)

So I personally HATE this line of thinking, but while I hate her auteurial obessions, she at least has them. She is an artist, and this is an artful film.

I could go on, but I’m tired.

Bill Murray for president.

One Response to “Lost in Translation”

  1. LL
    April 22nd, 2004 | 3:24 pm

    I’m a little late to this, but I’m so happy that, with all the to-do over whether the film’s fair to Asians, somebody’s brought up the poor lounge singer. The race issue is its own conversation, but I think the lounge singer epitomizes the class issue. She’s presented as vulgar and laughable, a foil for Scarlett’s delicate sensibility and unassailable fashion sense… but she’s just one of the few characters in the movie who, like most of the world, is stuck in a kind of shitty job that she probably had to swallow some integrity to do, but it pays the bills. It’s easy to pay homage to the Scarlett character’s integrity when clearly someone else is putting a (very lovely) roof over her head. And it’s difficult not to extend that thought to the filmmaker.

    I didn’t realize I had so much to say about it. I really did love the movie, but that upperclass supercilious streak has come to annoy me more and more.