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Lost in Translation

I enjoyed seeing Lost in Translation. It did justice to Japan, and the feeling of being a foreigner there. It was appropriately tiring watching so many very tired people. It had a good sense of rhythm, of daily life. There were lovely shots of Kyoto temples, looking elegantly mostly empty.

It was a movie which sampled as well. There were lots of little details of exactly the sort a stranger particularly notices in Japan - people reading graphic graphic novels on the subways, for example; tying prayers to tree limbs. The movie didn't explain - it didn't need to. If you didn't understand, it would only add to the ambiance it evoked.

The only sequences I am less sure about are those with Charlotte's friends - they were confusing - but to a degree I know they were meant to be so. Also, their pacing seemed less sure than the rest of the movie. The karaoke scene dragged a little, I thought.

Also - I loved the dinosaur and elephants walking across the building!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2003 08:57 am (UTC)
I want to see this movie! I keep hearing good things about it. Must go see, must go see...
Oct. 1st, 2003 09:43 am (UTC)
Everyone says it does the foreigner's impression of Japan, but I never felt it that way, or saw it that way, even when I went alone and with no language. Not at all.

I don't think I'm that unusual. But, who knows.
Oct. 1st, 2003 09:52 am (UTC)
When I was in Japan, I was always staying with host families, or with friends of my family, and there was always someone around who could translate. Most people I knew there could speak English. I always felt quite welcome and cared for. So it wasn't my personal experience either.

I bet you didn't stay in a business hotel on an expense account while there either.

That said, the movie did capture a sense of being foreign which would probably apply quite nicely to feeling alien anywhere, give or take the trappings of life. And I could relate to it as the foreign experience in Japan which I have heard others have. You're right, I did overly generalize.

But on the other hand, the movie did visually mention things which, at the time, I found at least briefly unexpected while spending time there.
Oct. 1st, 2003 04:50 pm (UTC)
The second time around, I stayed in a hotel for buisness workers sent to the field, a long-term stay business hotel. Which was very interesting. But you're right, no expense account (or patient ikebana teachers in the lobby, etc).

But it's not just you: almost everyone in my Japanese class thought so. And I have to wonder then, really, am I that odd? (And we had people who lived in Japan for years in that class, and those who've only done short term trips, so it's a fairly wide-ranging reaction to the movie.) What struck me most about Japan, first time I went, was how familiar it felt. Not that I was comfortable, or not tentative about things: it was sort of the equivalent of going to a fancy restaurant you see in the movies, where you don't want to draw too much attention to yourself, and you rely on what you remember seeing people in fancy restaurants to tell you what to do, and furtive observation.... but it's not quite foreign to you. I can't say this is everyone's experience, but it was mine.

(Second time around I didn't get quite the same feeling, either. I felt more at sea, now that I expected to be able to function better via the language etc. But I guess that's like a never-learning-the-right-fork issue. Or forgetting the stand-sit down again order of things at a church.)

But none of that was why I personally hate the film: that's all the main female character's fault, my reaction. In that, too, I'm rare: a film student here said that we were supposed to realize her faults, just probably not react to them as strongly as I did.
Oct. 1st, 2003 09:11 pm (UTC)
The first time I went to Japan, I knew very little about the place. I was maybe 9 years old at the time, on a sister city/sister state exchange. We'd had 6 or 8 meetings in advance to give us a sampling of cultural orientation and to train us to all sing a few songs and things together to perform for the school we'd be visiting. It was only a year after my mother's first trip over there. We hadn't hosted any exchange students yet. I'd traveled a fair amount in my life already by then, although not without my family. Between all those things, and being able to speak English, I had a fair margin of comfort with my surroundings. But I do still remember some things strikingly from then - particularly the truly disturbing tv movie which involved a drummer loosing her eyesight due to the breaking force of a guitar string. Among other things. Perhaps that's why I felt right at home with all the details in the movie. By the time I went over again, I was an anime fan, who'd taken a course on the Tale of Genji and had met and hosted a slew of Japanese visitors. That time, it was more the unusual but sensible innovations I noticed: hot and cold drink machines; book vending machines; the prevalence of shaved ice dishes; karaoke rooms.

Ah, you did have a business hotel experience. I have nothing comparable. The only commercial place to sleep I ever stayed in was two utterly amazing, incredible, delightful nights in a traditional ryokan.

As for the female lead: clearly you did have a stronger reaction to her than I did. I'm not sure she's someone I would necessarily like if I met her. But the movie did set up her situation in such a way that I could accept her flaws - although her complete lack of a goal in life was annoying - but didn't compromise the movie for me.

Movies can be highly ideosyncratic in terms of reactions though... my pet peeve of an example is Last of the Mohicans, which so many others quite liked.
Oct. 2nd, 2003 09:14 am (UTC)
Part of your reaction may depend on your age and sex, and in both I'm a lot closer to the other main character. I could see his flaws, such as they were (e.g., sloth, adultery — actually a good number of the major seven). I hardly noticed hers. True, she starts seeing what's in tokyo, such as the temple, and then pretty much sticks to her room, but in the meantime she had been abandoned by her husband. Could someone who is young and female spell out her flaws for me? [-p]
Oct. 3rd, 2003 07:08 am (UTC)
Charlotte seems like a saint compared to Tosca. And personally, the adultery bothered me far more than anything about Charlotte did. I don't know what sins in particular bothered tsutanai, but here are things which I noticed about her.

Her lack of any idea whatsoever to do in life, especially when she majored in philosophy, bothered me. Being indecisive, sure. But no ideas whatsoever?

She initiated their relationship - she was sitting around, bored but included, and picked the actor out of the crowd to send a drink to - she might not have gone as far as adultery, but she started the flirting.

She might be mildly discontent with her husband (although more likely she's just bored with her aimless life), but she never asks him to do anything. She's passive about her discontent. How is he meant to know there's anything wrong? (Yes, he's a little dense about everything as well.)

I couldn't relate to her choice of friends, but that's hardly a flaw. Although perhaps it shows poor choices in friends on her part. After all, even her choice of English-speaking friend, presumably from the US, whom she talks to on the phone isn't even a good enough friend to stick around and listen to her in her distress.
Oct. 3rd, 2003 09:59 pm (UTC)
Belatedly, I now do know why tsutanai didn't like it, and one way or another, I've pretty well covered it here. Only it didn't bother me as much.
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