Two weeks ago Kerstin and I went to the movies to watch Lost in Translation. Of course, we have seen the Golden Globe Awards before, and we met a ton of people who recommended the film. The honors are justified. I will only focus on two things: face the one real challenge I have encountered regarding the quality of this movie and tell you why I think and hope that Lost in Translation might mark the beginning of a new generation in Hollywood film making.
The challenge: this movie is presenting an overly stereotypical and one-dimensional perspective on contemporary Japan. There are quite a lot of scenes in this movie on which this critique can be built, for example the karaoke scene, the cartoonish talk show episode, and perhaps even the meeting in the decadent table dance location. However, I would argue that this movie focuses on the particular experience of two US-Americans in Japan; what is displayed is their view on this culture. It is their perspective which is, of course, not free from stereotypes. Furthermore, the heroine (most beautifully imperfect: Scarlett Johansson) gets into two quiet encounters with Japanese culture. One is the visit two the Shinto temple during the beginning of the movie, the other is her trip (by train – yeah!) to Kyoto where she wanders through a park.
The hope: Sofia Coppola evades two traps into which many Hollywood movies have fallen. She neither goes for the boring (though still sometimes nice and somewhat charming) romantic comedy scheme with which the average movie theater customer is bombarded during the period from September until March – happy ends might make you smile, but they also tend to leave a somewhat bland taste: you don’t really believe (in) them… Nor does she dance the postmodern cinema dance, only offering episodes and clips of people’s paths crossing each for some unknown reason and fading away, probably with some sex and bloodshed happening at the crossroads to prep up the story and generate spectacular movie trailers. Instead, Sofia Coppola offers a toned down, plausible and still extraordinarily attractive, humorous and intriguing story about two people who meet each other under circumstances not under their control. Both trying to make something of the time they have, not really succeeding, but trying very hard; falling in love, being torn, but still not doing things I would not believe someone in their position would at least try to do. I do really hope that the better US cinema of the coming years takes this as an example, trying to create beautiful, intimate, and believable stories which still seem to have something to do with everyday experiences of (ok, in this case it is certainly not lower class) people in the western or northern hemisphere.
Check out the trailer.