Erik Jaccard revisits romance and the music of My Bloody Valentine in Sofia Coppola’s dreamy, untethered “love letter to Tokyo,” Lost in Translation.
Lost in Translation
Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola
My encounter with Lost in Translation in late 2003 was set against a perfect storm of personal circumstance that in many ways made me the ideal audience for the film’s understated, quirky, and not a little sad take on finding love, purpose, and rejuvenation in the unexpected. As such, if I’m being honest with myself I have to admit that in 2003 I thought the film was amazing in nearly every way. But in order to explain why, I’ll first have to talk about that typhoon of circumstance and just how much it conditioned my response. Inevitably, I’ll also end up commenting a bit on what’s changed and why.
Circumstance #1: There are more fish in the sea. Or something.
This is going to sound kind of funny, but when I first watched Lost in Translation in late 2003, I was so ready for some romance. I had spent the better part of that year negotiating the final death throes of my first real romantic relationship and the process had left me feeling emotionally brittle and a little cynical. It was in that year that I learned a great deal about how easy it is for two people to come together and how difficult it can be to get them apart again. Having banked for so long on this particular romance working out, I was understandably crushed when it didn’t (for very good reasons) And that first love, as most know, is tough to get past. It’s pretty much a cliché at this point. Even though it’s entirely illogical, it still feels like that first boy or girl, that first real one (whatever that means to you) is such an end in itself, such a safe and secure emotional redoubt, that afterwards your own personal Camelot is forever shattered and there can be no others. It’s so bloody dramatic and unnecessary-seeming, at least from my cozy perch here in the future. Actually, looking back from my mid-30s with the added perspective of another relationship and even a marriage in between, it’s difficult to think about my erstwhile personal catastrophism without a chuckle that turns into a sad shrug.
It might seem like a contradiction that I’m saying I was simultaneously ‘ready for romance’ (I hate the phrase already) and convinced it could never again happen; yet, somehow, both of these statements were true. I was sad and cynical, but I had not given up hope that there might be something different out there. ‘Different’ is key here, as the disintegration of the relationship had stoked the flames of a long burning suspicion I’d always harboured that relationships were inherently bad, destructive things. Even though I still pursued them out of habit and custom, I nonetheless secretly coveted fleeting love, momentary love, love experienced as the blink of an eye, or, as Ethan Hawke’s Jesse puts it in Before Sunset, the length of a pop song. I know that this, too, is a cliché, and all I can think of is the Janeane Garofalo character in Reality Bites drolly intoning into Winona Ryder’s camcorder that her parents’ relationship was so dull and that all she wanted was excitement and first kisses, and fluttering heartbeats.
Anyway, at the ripe old emotionally immature age of 24 I was primed to love Lost in Translation because not only is it about two people who are extremely dissatisfied with their conventional relationships, it’s also about finding someone who feels exactly the same and falling in love with that person in the blink of an eye. It manages to combine a weariness with love and its associated institutions with a simultaneous endorsement of a love removed from them, as somehow beyond them. It’s difficult to describe how enamored I was of thatstructure, and of the possibilities it modelled. I didn’t care one bit that the relationship on screen involved no sex whatsoever (something I think we still need to give it credit for, ten years later), or that it was between a twentysomething young woman and a man old enough to be her father. I took away what I think Coppola wants you to take away from the film, that it is much less about the details, the age and occupation and looks and so forth, and more about the motivations behind each of the characters’ search for ‘something else’ and the unlikely chance that they find it in a Tokyo Hotel.
Circumstance #2: Times of Crisis/Times of Dreaming
Ok, so I wouldn’t say I was ‘in crisis’ back in 2003, but I appreciated that the characters inLost in Translation were, or at least seemed to be. And one of the things I enjoyed immensely back then—as I still do now—was how it seemed in many ways an exploration of how people deal with personal crisis by either stumbling upon or creating tangents or outside spaces—whether real or imagined—and often through a process that is essentially a form of dreaming. That the two leads exist in various states of crisis is undeniable. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a young married woman and recent college graduate, has accompanied her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) to Tokyo, where he is working a job. Cut off from her life and her future, she exists in an indeterminate crisis space that is at once entirely personal and also extremely banal—like most young people, she does not know who she is, what she’s supposed to be, or what her ultimate purpose is in life. At the opposite end of the life spectrum is Bob Harris (Bill Murray), a Hollywood actor in town to shoot a series of advertisements for a Japanese whisky company. Bob’s life is, if more stable and secure than Charlotte’s, every bit as critical and equally as banal. Having achieved what most would consider success and ‘happiness,’ Bob nonetheless feels distanced from himself, alienated from his wife and family, and unable to determine who he is or why.
That the film itself is dreamlike is not a point I feel the need to argue. As a record of experience, the narrative unfolds in the strange liminal space shaped by Bob and Charlotte’s jetlag insomnia (a fact which continues to produce their ‘chance’ meetings in the hotel bar). From the opening shot of Johansson turned away from the camera, probably sleeping, to the next sequence, with Bob waking up in his taxi cab and rubbing his eyes as though staring at a hologram, the irreality of what is happening and about to happen is never really in doubt. Even though I know it’s real—or probably real, who knows?—I like to think that the film’s sweet story might just be a possible outcome, an extension of the first glance shared between the two of them in the elevator, which then becomes the stuff of fantasy.
Looking back on it ten years later it’s difficult to deny that Lost in Translation’s greatest strength is its dream-like quality. On the one hand, it is precisely the sweet, sad, already-disappearing affection Bob and Charlotte have for one another that makes the film so memorable. From the very beginning you can sense that these two are not actually going to ‘stay in Tokyo and start a jazz band,’ as Charlotte suggests. Rather, they are going back to the mundane world on the other side of the looking glass, where they will have to deal with their problems separately, their experience—our experience—only a memory, if perhaps a formative one. As audience members, I think we want to believe in the dream, as escape at the very least, like I wanted to in 2003, or perhaps even as inspiration.
Secondly, for all its hazy insubstantiality, the film nonetheless comes off as a bigger production than it actually is, more like a big-budget ‘magic of the movies’ kind of experience, and that partly because it creates so convincing a dream world for its audience. It’s not Inception, but it does far more with far less than many films with larger budgets. The film a floating castle of sequences and images that come and go, set against either hectic, surreal wanderings through central Tokyo, the delicate, gentle colors of various ‘Japanese’ locales, or the vast internal labyrinth of the Tokyo Park Hyatt hotel. The soundtrack, by far one of the film’s major strengths, only heightens the dream-like effect. The four new pieces by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields—along with the MBV classic “Sometimes”—use the elements of shoegaze and dream pop in perfect concert with—and I have to admit borrowing this from another reviewer—the film’s “romantic fever dream” aesthetic. Death in Vegas almost out-My Bloody Valentines My Bloody Valentine, and the sublime 90-second ambient coma that is Squarepusher’s “Tommnib” seems like it could contain the entire film.
I bring the music up here because it is now—like it was in 2003—one of my key entry points into the way the film is experienced, even how it is felt. I’m sure that everyone does this at some point or another, but I am one of those people who doesn’t just listen to music as background, nor even as something to be critically picked apart and appreciated for its minute qualities. I do both of these things, of course, but I also love music because it sends me into subconscious, dream-like spaces. It’s all a very individualized and private affair, as is so much in our insular world, but when I put my headphones on to listen to music, and often when I’m walking, much of the point is to for me to disappear from a fully conscious existence. I mean, I’m there, I’m not going to run into you, but I’m also at times somewhere very far away, enjoying the process of dreaming through various scenarios and options, looking through the file cabinet that is my past, or simply enjoying the feeling of being disconnected. One of the most profound reasons Lost in Translation resonated with me and, really, one of the most fully realized of its achievements in general, is how it manages to mesh sound with image and both of those elements with the production of the dreamworld in which the majority of the narrative seems to take place.
I have one more thing I want to say about all of this dreaminess, but I’m saving it for the end. [Cheeky, I know.]
Circumstance #3: Knowing who the fuck you are
I don’t want to belabour this point, as I’ve already worked it into a number of reviews and I feel it’s growing stale. Even if it’s not, I’m getting tired of talking about it. But yes, I was not all that certain that I knew who I was back in 2003. I was getting there, for sure, but it was still a long time coming. I had vague ideas about what I wanted to, or even could, do for a career and who I was going to be and blah blah blah. This is by far the most banal part of the film, and it is a testament to Coppola that she created characters and found actors who can take this particular problem and express it without sounding too obnoxiously vain. The key scene is here, and I’ll let you watch it for yourself, but I think it’s the one of the most tender and intimate portions of the film. It may be the most obvious of the conversations that the two have, and is by far the least ‘lovey’ in any conventional sense of that word. But it’s an exchange that seems necessary, as though it finally lays all the cards on the table.
It’s also, weirdly, the scene that is simultaneously primed to be the most sexual (they’re on a bed, almost touching) and the least sexual (he is giving her advice from the position of an elder, father-like perspective). That Coppola abstains from sex, here and elsewhere, and not in some kind of cloying or tricky or moralistic way, says loads about how she wants us to view both her characters and their attraction to one another. They already know a lot about themselves, which actually makes their little crises seem less genuine to me this time around. They are good, solid people set adrift in a world in which they feel divorced from real human connections. No matter what Charlotte says about her future, etc., she behaves like someone who knows who she is, even if she doesn’t know what form that will take later on. She is hopeful, something we can see in the color palletes used to accentuate the mood in scenes in which she is pictured alone (and especially in the utterly lush ‘Alone in Kyoto’ scene). Bob is a little harder to read, given that he does the one truly regressive, adolescent, Erik-at-24 thing in the film and sleeps with the lounge singer for no apparent reason. [The fairly creepy reason is that the act is a displacement of desire for Charlotte, but I’m going to let that slide.] But in general he stays a fairly straight course. He might be unhappy with who he is or who he has become, but at least he knows.
Nevertheless, I definitely latched onto the explicit meaning behind the words in this scene in 2003 and let it speak to me. The problem was that, unlike Charlotte, I don’t think I knew who I was in any fundamental way. Or, and this is harder truth to stomach, I did know, and I didn’t like it. If I was able to brush that aside, it’s partly to do with me and partly with the at times the film seems to suggest that in this oneiric, surreal place all bets are off and one needn’t necessarily learn from or understand it.
A new thought
I have to more things that I want to say, both of which may come are more critical of the film and more reflective of the close attention to which I paid it this time around. One is a reflection that is going to sound like it came straight of my academic work. The other is more personal. But they’re both, I think, important.
- Lost in Translation as a ‘valentine to Tokyo’
Coppola has stated publicly that in many ways the film is meant to be a paean to Tokyo and her experience of it, a ‘valentine to Tokyo,’ as she put it. But if Lost in Translation is a valentine, it is a strange one indeed. Well, as long as ‘valentine’ still means an expression of love and affection for another person or thing (or, in this case, people). Look at it this way:
We have modern Japan, which is seen from the eyes of outsiders as this wacky, hyperreal, and utterly eccentric place full of strange people who lead weird lives in an overwhelming, nonstop palace of lights and signs and images. But while there is a surface glaze of life to Coppola’s contemporary Japan, it simultaneously seems substance-less, devoid of either a recognizable social being or even of individuals who might move us beyond stereotypes. It is, in other words, your generic rendering of the globally accessible, superficial ‘postmodern’ culture into which anyone can fit, but within which no one possesses any real being beyond the mask through which they operate in that economy. If the film is not willing to tell us that this postmodern dream is ‘fake,’ then it certainly seems to suggest that it is without center (and thus suspect).
Then there is the ‘real’ Japan explored by Charlotte, the Japan of chanting monks and kimono-clad, flower-arranging women, of traditional weddings and monumental architecture, of some kind of social and cultural organicism seen from the outside and treasured by an alienated American individual convinced that she doesn’t have a place in the world. The film seems to suggest that we should make important distinctions between the two realms, that the first is ‘real’ but also inauthentic and the second, I would think, ‘authentic’ but also, when you think about it, entirely eclipsed, unreal, and therefore ready for consumption (just like, to give an example, the myth of Highland Scotland). If neither are real or authentic, then where is Japan?
Coppola really wants us to see genuine human connection between Bob, Charlotte, and Charlotte’s Japanese friends in the ‘party’ sequence near the middle of the film. Admittedly, there are moments when, for the first time, we see the pair begin to open and engage with actual living beings rather than the depthless surfaces of their individual lives. But these are only moments and the Japanese characters in the remainder of the film mostly props used to emphasize degrading stereotypes or provide brief moments of humor that are otherwise as fleeting as the rest of the image-soaked scenery to which we are exposed.
This is all to say that Lost in Translation has very little to do with Japan, which seems to exist only as a cluster of symbols drawn from other media, that the audience—who is compelled to participate in and endorse Bob and Charlotte’s perspective, will recognize and ultimately find amusing. And it’s not that I’m hating on cultural differences or the Japanese. In fact, I’d love to visit Japan and find out, contra what I see in Lost in Translation, that they are actually people living human lives. But the film doesn’t trade in actual cultural difference; rather, because Coppola thinks Tokyo is just so neat, and because Japan therefore becomes the locus for the two leads’ rebellion against a deadening morass of empty life, contemporary Japan is constructed as a background against which the film’s romance and struggle develops. Yet there is very little, if any, meaningful attempts to bring this background into conversation with the existential dilemmas of its protagonists. It remains mostly as background, offering no real people and no interpersonal relations against which we might actually see the drama of its two ‘Americans abroad’ more clearly.
Which is why so much of the film is shot in a location defined primarily by foreigners, the Tokyo Park Hyatt hotel. Coppola has stated that it is one of her favourite places in the world, particularly because “the design of it is interesting. It’s weird to have this New York bar…the jazz singer…the French restaurant, all in Tokyo. It’s this weird combination of different cultures.” Now my relationship to all things ‘postmodern’ is ambivalent, but I could not have devised a more accurate version of what that word has generally been taken to mean if I was Fredric Jameson himself. When you read this statement, then watch the film, then read the statement again, it becomes clear, I think, that what doesn’t belong is the phrase “all in Tokyo.” These things could be true of any global megalopolis, really, and they’re most certainly true of, say, Las Vegas (where there is a Pyramid and an Eiffel Tower and a big ol’ pirate ship at sea!). There are also extremely diverse cultures and spaces that are ‘all in Disneyland’ or ‘all in London Heathrow.’ And I suppose that is the point. The Tokyo Park Hyatt may be quiet and nicely designed and therefore a bulwark against the chaos of actual Tokyo outside its doors, but it is an Airport, a Theme Park, a Burger King, a sliding set of interconnected images to which it is very difficult to form any lasting connection.
Isn’t this one of the reasons Charlotte and Bob are slowly edged together in the first place? It is not simply a hotel in which they sleep (or, more accurately, don’t sleep), but a character that I think we have to see as somewhat vicious and controlling and, at worst, symbolic of a world in which human beings can find no others with which to meaningfully communicate. Amid the businessman and wait staff and other interchangeable faces and types, they are set up as the ones that are ‘actually human’ in an organic way that we will learn to appreciate because we can do it in contradistinction to their environment. We’re meant to see Charlotte’s photographer husband and his vacuous Hollywood actress acquaintance (poor Anna Faris, cast as a blonde ditz once again) as emblematic of this condition partly because of their roles in the production and dissemination of ‘culture’ and partly because they seem entirely unconscious of their own superficiality and of the superficiality of their ‘engagement’ with others through this medium. Bob and Charlotte singing karaoke with friends in an intimate setting wherein they can actually engage and interact is juxtaposed to the image of Anna Faris singing with fake sincerity to a mostly disengaged and apathetic hotel lounge crowd. Charlotte’s relationship with Bob is clearly one of love, but love that is never spoken except through body language, whereas her husband is constantly telling her that he loves her, all the while treating her as another interchangeable object in a photo shoot.
“I think the easiest people to fool are ourselves. Fooling ourselves may even be the necessary precondition for fooling others.”
I mentioned above that there was one more thought I wanted to share about Lost in Translation’s dream-like quality and will do that here by way of discussing the final scene of the film, which most who have seen it are sure to remember.
If I’ve not already made it clear, my experience of the film in 2003 was in large part structured around a romanticized image. I romanticized the characters, and for this I might be forgiven, considering that the film itself participates in this activity. But I also romanticized their situation. Their escape from unsatisfying lives into a dreamspace in which they can voice their fears and concerns to another sympathetic soul became something of an ideal for me in that it A) reinforced why I loved the dream so much (Reality Bites!), B) helped me feel better about my own position (I’m a victim of reality!), and C) provided shelter from needing to confront the part I played in creating the reality of which I was so disdainful.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out that C has been right in front of my face the entire time. I just didn’t want to see that Bob and Charlotte are, in various ways, also responsible for their flight from reality into a romantic dream. They’re not simply driven by destiny into the arms of love (wouldn’t that be nice?), nor are they pitiable victims of ‘marriage’ or ‘relationships,’ or even their own individual spouses. Yes, Charlotte’s husband is an unqualified douchebag far more interested in surfing the waves of cool than in maintaining a relationship with his wife. And maybe Bob’s wife, Lydia, who we hear only over the phone, like someone calling from the moon, is a bit overbearing or no longer interested in Bob. But can we really blame either of them for making the lives of their spouses unfulfilling? Not really. Nor can we stop and say, well, neither of them know who they are, so how can they know how to be honest about it? Of course they know who the fuck they are and what they want—the difference between what they know and what they experience is why they’re unhappy in the first place. And it’s what makes that damn dream so tantalizing, because if you let it stay a dream, if you set up shop there, it becomes like a drawer you put hidden things in, or a shed that you sneak off to in the afternoons so you can ‘be yourself.’ The reason they end up gravitating towards one another in the first place is that they are both renegades from a world in which they play false selves for other people to whom they have lost all meaningful connection. It could be that it’s just me, but on my first, second, and even third viewing, it never occurred to me that this could be even remotely their own fault, that they might actually be playing themselves and those around them falsely because they were unwilling to be honest.
I know, I know. This is not big news. In fact, this time around it was entirely obvious to me how sad and desperate the characters themselves were and that, no matter how much attachment we might have to their brief romantic interlude, that dream is not the point. The point is what happens after, what happens when they the curtain falls down on that busy Tokyo street and they go back to their respectively unhappy, dishonest lives. Sure, we can enjoy those moments out of time, and even romanticize them, but there is a danger in this, a danger that what you end up doing is not dealing with your own shit, but actually fooling yourself.
Last year, when my marriage was falling apart, and even in the immediate aftermath of that emotional train wreck, I retreated into my own fantasy space. And I did so in a way weirdly mediated by films like Lost in Translation. In fact, exhibiting behaviour I can only now sheepishly describe as obsessive, I watched and re-watched the film, finding it pleasurably cathartic and strangely reassuring. I let myself get caught up in its dreamscape, which felt insulating and secure and unthreatening. I told myself there was a space like that out there for me, and that I would find it and live there, whether it was a place, a person, or even just a song I’d play in my head, over and over, forever. I wanted to remove myself from a current of real events that felt like it was trying to suck me under. One easy way to do that was to find a place not unlike Charlotte’s perch overlooking Tokyo: light, ethereal, untouchable. Or else a moment like the protracted one in which the film’s drama plays out, a blink of the eye you can nonetheless get lost in. In other words, I didn’t want to the film to end. I wanted to set up shop in that moment, build a little castle there, buy some sturdy furniture and a comfortable bed and stay indefinitely. The catch was that I did not understand that it was not a place I needed to find. I was already living there and had been for some time.
At the same time, I found a tremendous amount of solace in the company of my friends and family, and gained I significant dollop of wisdom and perspective from listening to their stories and their advice, and from actually paying attention to the intersections of my story with their own. And in dialogue with others I found that it became much, much easier to tell the truth. Released from my head in certain ways, or perhaps with my mind bared to others in a moment of weakness, the little half-truths I’d been telling myself for so long often exploded into the open, sometimes downright shocking me. It’s a disorienting experience to realize that you’ve been fooling yourself. It feels like you’ve been living in a dream, or else that the thing you thought was the dream had become your reality and vice versa.
I’m going to say that I didn’t intend to get into any of this and that it was really only that final scene that got me thinking. As most know, the film’s final sequence has Bob and Charlotte say an awkward goodbye in the lobby of Tokyo Park Hyatt. It’s a moment that is sad because it simply can’t be what you want it to be, and especially with those two in those circumstances. And so they part, and it all seems so anticlimactic. But driving away from the hotel in a taxi Bob sees Charlotte walking away through the crowd. Catching up to her, he hugs her close and whispers something inaudible in her ear. I’ve always loved this moment because I—and I know I’m not alone here—have always felt that it would do the film no good to have one final declarative stamp on our dreamy pseudo-Tokyo fairy tale romance. It somehow felt right that we couldn’t hear and I let it be mysterious and all the more moving perhaps because it was mysterious.
This time I didn’t want the mystery. So I picked up the laptop and I held it to my ear and I listened as intently as I could. I didn’t catch much, but I *thought* I heard three words that shook me a bit, and instigated all of this.
Tell the truth.
- I must admit to being a fan of watching people who are in the process of being awed by something outside of themselves. There is a certain vicarious delight I take in seeing the flicker of amazement and joy flit across someone face as they encounter some unforeseen thing for the first time. This is why I love the way the film introduces us to Bill Murray’s character. We see him asleep in a taxicab, face against the window, clearly out of it. And then he wakes up, and suddenly there is this unbelieving flash of amazement that spreads over him as he tries to take in the massive sensory overload that is central Tokyo, something like fresh joy. I realize that this sounds like some kind of dish soap, and maybe I’m just trying too hard to reinvent what is essentially nothing but plain, old fashioned wonder. But I think, given the context I outline above, there is something to the idea that this film is asking you to both recognize and appreciate that we, as a ‘global society’ are still capable of wonder, and of thinking new pathways to honesty and to being with each other.
- Allow me to start this one off with an anecdote. I once told someone that I had no opinion of the band Journey and could barely remember any of their songs (save “Don’t Stop Believin’,” of course). However, when I was finally exposed to Journey’s greatest hits on a long drive some time afterward, I was flabbergasted at how many of their songs I recognized, most without even reaching the chorus. And I thought to myself, WHY DO I NOT KNOW THAT I AM INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH JOURNEY, WHEN CLEARLY MY SUBCONSCIOUS CELEBRATES THEIR ENTIRE CATALOG?!? I’ve since had this experience repeated with INXS and, to a certain extent, The Police. And the question remains: Unless I was unknowingly subject to an unspecified experiment at some point in my life, one which involved massive exposure to 1980s pop music, why do I know these songs (and, moreover, why do I not know that I know)? I don’t have a hard and fast answer to this question. I think it probably has something to do with mass media oversaturation, product cross-placement, and simple exposure to ‘culture,’ which you can step outside without tripping over. The point of all this, however, was that I was myself surprised once again by how many images from Lost in Translation have become so iconic that they have etched themselves on my brain at a frightening depth. Bill Murray looking despondent in a bathrobe; Bill Murray standing a head over an elevator full of Japanese businessmen (see FFT #4); Bill Murray on a bench with Scarlet Johansson, wearing a pink wig, her head on his shoulder; Johansson framed against a bird’s eye view of the Tokyo skyline…there are more. So many images. They have become part of my mind’s visual vocabulary. They are a sign system through which I interpret the world. Or am I simply a subject always already in the act of being interpreted by them?
- Those who know me are aware that I am a rather large man. Not in the waist, thankfully, but through the shoulders and definitely in a vertical sense. Despite its occasional benefits (I can reach things you can’t! Rain touches me first! I have a minor advantage in certain sports! You can find me in a crowd! Ha!), there are a number of disadvantages to being tall, the most common and frustrating one simply being the fact that the world is not built for your end of the bell curve. This is even more apparent in a place like Japan, where the average body type is even more diminutive. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to visit Japan, or anywhere in Asia, and this film provides me with at least a glimpse (and a confirmation) of that experience. Seeing Bill Murray stand a head above an entire elevator full of Japanese men elicited a knowing nod, as did the amusing tussle with a vertically incommensurate shower head. I once lived for nine months in a Seattle apartment which had just such a showerhead, placed at maybe 5’5” above the floor. And the catch? It was built into the fucking wall For nine months I took ‘shaths,’ which usually involved me kneeling or sitting in the tub with the showerhead spraying down from two feet above. It wasn’t terrible and on colder days having my bottom half submerged in water actually felt pretty good. Why not just take a bath, you might ask? Because I wanted a shower, dammit, and one doesn’t always have time to take a bath.
- Ok, as much of a stereotype as it probably is, the “Lip my stockings” is really fucking funny. Although, for the life of me, I still have no idea what is really going on with that call girl/woman and the game she is playing. Is it meant to be a parody of the traditionally submissive (and apparently masochistic) Japanese woman playing the sexualized and objectified victim to an aggressive and demanding man? That’s what my uninformed brain is telling me is the most likely answer to my question, but it’s an answer with which I’m extremely uncomfortable. I don’t want to find sexual violence, submissiveness, or masochism particularly funny, and this scene seems to want me to.
- I heart Bill Murray nearly getting annihilated by an elliptical machine. It’s kind of sad and pathetic, but it’s also really amusing.
- As someone who loves karaoke and is a fairly experienced karaoke singer, I have to say that the film captures what is to me the very best and worst of the karaoke experience. At times, especially when the act is connecting two people or more through music, it’s magical in its own right, especially if done well. Now, none of the songs performed here are done all that well, but in the scenes when Charlotte and Bob are out partying with Charlotte’s hipster friends, there is an actual feeling of camaraderie and warmth that karaoke can and should provide (which is why I love those little rooms). And, for the first time, whether together or alone, you can see both of them beginning to open up into the experience around them.
- On the other hand, it also accurately captures the down time to karaoke, the moments when someone is singing a song clearly intended for either themself and themself alone, or for someone or some group in the audience. During these moments you tend to get a tell-tale absent nod, a far-away look on the face that indicates the person has disengaged. At moments like that karaoke becomes sad and atomised, much like the majority of ‘people’ in Lost in Translation.