Monday, March 15, 2004

Late for the Nozomi

We finally saw Lost In Translation this weekend.

Although the sane won't care what I think about this movie, I did express an earlier worry about it here. So in the interests of completeness (and for the entertainment of the insane), here's my report.

The movie could have done more to bring modern Japanese 'kei' to life. But this wasn't a travelogue, so it's no big deal. The bigger issue with it stems from what I have learned about life in general. The two principal characters really need to quit being babies.

I understand the movie is supposed to be about two lost souls, in a strange (for them) land, figuring out...whatever. But I couldn't buy into it, because the characters' loneliness and solitude felt like such a self-induced, diaphanous layer of gauze - either of them could easily have broken through, without having to turn to the tired and untrue 'old rich guy/beautiful vulnerable maiden' routine.

Problem 1 - Is the Bill Murray character supposed to be bipolar, or just plain pathetic?

A guy makes 2 million bucks from a one day commercial shoot (acting!) and all he can think to do is sit in the hotel bar, mope and drink?

Hasn't bothered to learn a sentence or two of the language. Feels cartoonish portrayals and observations about cultural mores is the same as being glib. Who knew this level of bourgeois morbidity would make him attractive to a beautiful women, half his age? Luckily, he's bored with The Marriage too. Convenient. I found Murray's performance unconvincing. And why were people raving about his karoke version of P,L&U? Jeeze, that was bland! If you thought he rocked, maybe you don't want to karoke with me....

Problem 2 - Clearly, I don't know what gets young white female Yale philosophy majors hot.

Wait a sec... no point in being unnecessarily modest here: I do too know what gets them hot, and it surely isn't a middle-aged low-brow, drooling into a big glass of Whine. She's attracted to him because...she's *another* loser!

This femme d'ennui spends far too much time in her hotel room. Anyone who does even a modest amount of travel, knows places like New York City, London and Tokyo are simply far too magnetic and exciting for you to do anything but sleep (...maybe one other thing) in your room. You are drawn out, compelled, to explore. It's impossible to deny the pull. Yet we are asked to believe a thoughtful philosophy major, married to a working (albeit shallow, doofusey, perhaps philandering) photographer, would not be inclined to soaking up the museums, galleries, club scene and general overload of sensory stimulation that is Tokyo? Okay, maybe in the US she doesn't get out much. Maybe she does have suspicions she has boy problems. Maybe that's why she doesn't seem to take any lasting nourishment from the temples of Kyoto. And why she lays around a lot, in her see-through underwear.

Problem 3 - The Park Hyatt Hotel.

Did the premise by which she and her hubby are in Tokyo bother you? I would really like to know which record label would get a room, at the super plush Park Hyatt Hotel, for a band photographer & his spouse. Just insane, on so many levels. And yes, everyone knows by now that the Japanese bow. So why even try the extremely tired 'bow, bow, bow again' bit, at the elevator? And that prostitute - 'Lip my stocking?' Sophia, what was that about?

There were a few other off-putting cultural indiscretions, but I'll give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume they put them in to portray a first-timer's view of Japan. But to be honest, knowing even just a little bit about the Japanese, makes parts of this movie disappointing.

Problem 4 - Pretty Vacant.

The entire film seems to be shot through a taxi window. Figuratively and literally (the former in that the main characters willfully remain detached from their environs). The Japanese characters and extras are either stereotypical, or ...ignored. Japan and the Japanese are only the backdrop. And to me they look far more interesting. What a disappointment to have to leave that club with the two gaijin, just as things are warming up! I'll stay! 'Bob, Charlotte, don't worry about me...I'll catch up with you two at breakfast tomorrow.'

Although the cinematography was rich, the subjects themselves bring a lot of it to the film. Shibuya Crossing, Kyoto, Fuji-san - these are breath-taking visuals, *in reality*. I felt Coppola's 'vision' is from the regrettably passive viewpoint of a taxi passenger. I wonder if she even realizes most everyone, including tourists (except for, possibly, big-shot directors), regularly take mass transit, or walk. The sense of immersion into this 'alien' soup, is a big part of what I find wonderful about Tokyo. You're within and without. It's too bad that impression wasn't truly captured, even in the second half, when Bob and Charlotte finally start doing stuff.

So, color me entertained by the lovely postcards from the east, but I wouldn't want to travel with B & C anytime soon.

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