Lost In Translation

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My first New York social engagement, a few hours after touchdown at JFK, will be an Oscars party in Brooklyn. New Yorkers don’t watch much TV—life there is too much fun—so for the big nights television owners generously open their living-rooms. This gay Superbowl is my favourite.

The Irish media keep running interviews with the Sheridan family, who are up for the screenwriting award, but boo, hiss! I say. In America was an okay film with dodgy dialogue. It’s not that I have much respect for the Academy, but I’d like to see Sophia Coppola win that Oscar and any others going, not least because I can trust her to wear a very lovely Marc Jacobs dress to the podium.

Lost in Translation was the first true American movie I’ve seen in years. In script, photography, casting, and music, she outdoes daddy and her gurning ex-husband (and skewers Spike Jonze beautifully by casting twitchy, zombie-faced Giovanni Ribisi as Scarlett Johanssen’s husband.) Bill Murray, bless his pockmarks, has always been my dream dinner date, and I would die happy if he ever serenaded me with “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” And Johanssen, though her character is maddening and maddeningly familiar, does a fine job.

I hear complaints that the movie is racist, that it propagates Japanese stereotypes, that it shows only postcard Tokyo. They’re missing the point. This movie is about dislocation and fleeting recognition. We need to be at home in ourselves to explore, and her characters aren’t, yet. That’s why Coppola shows us faithfully the postcards and cartoons they see.

13 comments to “Lost In Translation”

  1. Comment by Darren:

    While ‘Lost in Translation’ is an excellent movie, she certainly hasn’t outdone her father. Ask yourself this: In fifty years, will people remember ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Lost in Translation’?

    Jonze is more debatable, but for my money, ‘Being John Malkovich’ is one of the most clever, original major motion pictures of the last twenty years. It doesn’t hold together as well as ‘Lost’, but it’s also a much more daring, bold film.

    Furthermore, this brings Ms. Coppola’s cinematic ouevre to a total of two films, and ‘The Virgin Suicidies’ was nothing to write home about.

  2. Comment by Anonymous:

    Limerick types Hail to the Chimp and DrC deal with LiT haytas all the time over at the IMDB message boards.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335266/board/thread/6446096?d=6673878#6673878

  3. Comment by Dervala:

    Okay, Darren, you busted me being over-the-top. Not for the first time. Being John Malkovich was very entertaining. Daddy’s movies are classics. I even like his red wine.

    But oh, it thrills me so much to see a movie about women that actually speaks to me, not to Sandra Bullock fans. (Mulholland Drive was another, not to everyone’s taste.) I get carried away defending her from charges of nepotism.

    You’re right that the critics will remember The Godfather et al in fifty years. I will too, if I haven’t completely lost my marbles by then. But I hope I’ll remember the sharp tenderness in this movie, too. It means more to me now than Spike Jonze’s cleverness or FFC’s guns and steel.

  4. Comment by eoin:

    Why did Mulholland Drive speak to you as a woman in particular, Dervala. I know it had some Nancy Drewish qualities to it, but beyond that?

    I believe by the way that it was one of the best movies of the decade. It’s just that I don’t see the “speaks to women exclusively angle”. Men can appreicate lesbian love scenes as well as anybody, is what I’m saying ( somewhat tongue in cheek).

  5. Comment by Dervala:

    Yikes, I’m never into the ‘speaks exclusively to women angle’, sorry if it came across that way. Most movies about women don’t speak to me at all, for some reason. I’d hope that anyone could enjoy the movie, though not all do, and taking off my Woman hat (ahem) I’d still love it. I hope and believe men like LiT to, for Bill Murray and My Bloody Valentine if nothing else.

    I felt surprised and exhilarated that Lynch captured some aspects of a (this?) woman’s subconscious so well. Or perhaps that he captured a subconscious, full stop. (As does Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.) At the time I became enfuriated with people who didn’t get it and were loudly rude about it; there were plenty.

    I mentioned MH, I think, to illustrate that female filmmakers don’t have a monopoly on female characters.

  6. Comment by Darren:

    One of the things I liked about ‘Lost in Translation’ was that Scarlet Johannsen had hips. Compared to the average skeletal ingenue, she was positively normal. Mind you, somebody suggested that she had a body-double for that loving opening shot. So, I’m not sure if that sends the right message or not.

    I pride myself on being a dedicated cineaste (and I’m snobby enough to use that term), but I was truly flummoxed by Mulholland Drive. I spent a long time trying to puzzle through it, but never got very far. In truth, there’s probably no code to crack—but I’d have appreciated it if Lynch had thrown us a few more clues. Or maybe I’m just obtuse.

  7. Comment by Dervala:

    Yes, her padding was wonderful. She looked very real; her body matched her lips. Though now you say it, the bottom in the pink Cosabella knickers was probably not hers…

    See, your view of Mulholland Drive I have total respect for, Darren. It is an odd movie, and it just happened to click for me because my brain works that way too, so the meanderings made perfect sense. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy it that way, but it bugged me when the bossy, factual sorts dismissed it as balderdash. If I ever get to Vancouver I’ll bore you with my interpretation of it.

  8. Comment by JS Sebastian:

    Lynch is pretty visceral, I don’t think he likes his movies to admit of too much interpretation, cerebrally.

  9. Comment by eoin:

    Acutally the reason I liked Mullholland Drive is becuase I understood it – unlike a lot of his movies.

    The first 2/3’s were the guilty dream(s) of Diane Selwyn after she had authorized a hit on her ex-girlfriend Camilla.

    in this part everybody had positions and names messed up, and the hit didn’t take place because of the accident.

    The last one third was the last days of diane’s life before she killed herself, interspersed with flashbacks of their previous life together. The pivotal scene was the party in the Director’s house ( a flashback) – which started Diane’s descent into madness.

  10. Comment by Justin:

    Yep, that was Scarlett’s bum in the opening shot — no stunt bum involved!

    Agreed BTW about Lost in Translation — one of the best movies in years, by far (the soundtrack album is great, too).

    But I really didn’t like Mulholland Drive, possibly because it had been talked up so much in advance by a friend before I saw it. Same thing happened with Cronenberg’s Spider — maybe I’m just oversensitive to overhype ;)

  11. Comment by Tom Shugart:

    Oscar parties—I love ‘em—and am hosting a modest one this year. During the festivities, I’ll give a tip of my glass eastward toward Brooklyn in honor of your return to our shores. And if Lost In Translation doesn’t win, I’ll join you in a curse on the Academy.

  12. Comment by eoin:

    Well, it didn’t, and Tom’s cursing.

    I was happy enough with the winners tonight except for Renee Zellweger and/or anything from Cold Mountain ( Marcia or Shohreh Aghdashloo , OR Patricia Clarkson would have been better)

    As for Lost In Translation, I saw it on it’s opening day in October and I don’t remember that much about it ‘cept it was rather slight, and as my friend remarked afterwards “They couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stay awake”.

    These short story type movies can never expect to win against a juguarnaught like LOTR, and maybe that is to the best – a movie is naturally epic – a novel rather than a New Yorker short.

  13. Comment by Dervala:

    It did win Best Screenplay! (That’s what I was hoping for.) Dunno that either a movie or a novel is always necessarily epic as a form, though LOTR certainly is. I confess LOTR movies make me yawn more than LTR, though I think they’re fascinating as studies of the First World War experience. Tolkien was a veteran, and I think its written all over his themes.