Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lost in Translation

I probably didn’t give Lost in Translation enough of a mention, since there were quality aspects to it. The Japanese/American interplay is often quite zany: the handing over of business cards at the beginning to Bill Murray by a half dozen people who are somehow involved with his next few days; the appalling prostitute who invades his room and nearly cripples him; the insane chat show host; the director of the commercial Murray is making who can’t say something simple without a hundred words – all in Japanese and at great speed. It’s then translated into almost nothing by his offsider.
Then there are the weird people whom Murray and Johansson meet in their night wanderings, strange people who seem to pour out their heart – in Japanese. Or the man who is a rather fat John Lennon imitation; and then his lady moves into the shot, and she’s Yoko Ono. And there’s the crazy starlet who can’t stop talking long enough to let anyone else speak, or the anonymous fourth person at the table with Johansson and her husband and the starlet, who talks enthusiastically in pop music-speak for a minute, asks her if she understands, and she says no. He might as well be speaking Japanese.
The humour is quiet and subtle, and because Murray underplays his character to such an extent even the mad moments, such as when he’s trapped on an exercise treadmill with a Japanese voice exclaiming at him, aren’t over the top. These are the qualities of the movie.
But there’s no storyline; almost nothing really happens except the revealing of a man’s life on autopilot, and a girl wondering why she married a young man who doesn’t seem really interested in her. Both of them find it hard to sleep at night and they meet accidentally and on purpose in various places in the large hotel they’re staying in. Both of them have lost their way for the time being, and really don’t find it by the time the movie’s over. While this is interesting, it’s not exactly stimulating, and as I said in the earlier post, there’s a great sag in the middle of the movie where eccentric Japanese night people take over but don’t really contribute anything to what’s going on. People wandering around Tokyo, or staring out of hotel windows, or drinking whisky in the bar, or doing karaoke are interesting, but only up to a point. Unless something moves in their lives, we’re left back at square one. Which I think is the problem – for me – of the movie. For all their meetings and odd conversations, we’re no further on at the end than we were at the beginning.

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