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Lost in Translation

Tue, Apr 6, 2004; by cynthia rockwell.

I’ve collected the posts from my Lost In Translation obsession and pasted them here:

3/7/04

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.

3/15/04

This is an academic exploration of Scarlett Johansson’s ass. Do not view it as salacious material. Do not! Stop it! Scroll down to see the argument.

The ass shot that opens Lost in Translation. My first reaction: groan of disgust. Why is this necessary. Why would a female director start her film this way. What does this have to do with anything. Why do I suddenly want to *shake* Sofia Coppola.

But now I think it may be beautiful. The film is very much about a girl having trouble growing up. She is a girl in a woman’s body. Her panties are little-girly-pink, yet see-through. Childlike and adult, at once. It’s not a thong. We see that she’s wearing a sweater. Not naked, not just a bra, but a sweater. And she stirs, moving one of her legs. A woman resting, not a woman displaying herself for you. Her back is turned to you. She is thinking, she is in her world, she is not for you.

So the shot is appropriate. It fits. The friend I saw the movie with didn’t like the choice of actress, she said she was too young, that she couldn’t nail the part, she didn’t have the complexity. That a 19-year-old playing a 25-year-old was a bad move. You usually go the other direction in casting. Get a 28-year-old to play a 25-year-old. But the point here is that this girl is in some way still stuck being a little girl. An older actress would bring maturity, but the role does not want maturity. Maturity would ruin it.

And this leads into the daddyism. Bill Murray is not just a charismatic guy, he’s a daddy figure. A guy who treats her like his little girl. Makes a big deal out of the boo-boo on her foot, takes her to the hospital. Grabs the menu and orders for her when she can’t figure out the sushi menu. Gives her life advice.

This is a movie written by a daddy’s girl. Not surprising that in an interview Sofia Coppola said that her father starred in a Santori whiskey ad in Japan.

Je‘ points out that this person’s photos were inspiration for the ass shot that opens Lost in Translation. I could rationalize Sofia’s use, but not his. His seem like pure posed-for-male-pleasure cheesecake. That ass is jutting out and on display and wearing a baby-doll negligee. And if Coppola admits that his work was the inspiration, it beefs up all the reasons I’m uncomfortable with her depiction of women in her films. That she had to convince Scarlet to do the shot makes it even worse. She’s treading a very, very fine line here.

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