February 04, 2004

lost in translation

Carol insisted that watching Lost in Translation was one of my primary objectives in living this life. I went to Tsutaya (basically the Blockbuster of Japan) and looked for it last month. How silly am I to be looking for a film that hasn't even come out in theaters here yet?

After giving up on that plan for a bit, I prodded some of my Internet buddies so I could get my hands on the film. Well, let's just say a little faery came and dropped the film into my hard drive.

So, I got to watchy watch. How was it? It was really well made: great cinemetography, good music. Some points are too slow for me. Overall, I'd give it a 7 out of 10.

I could feel the frustration these people were having living in Japan. Actually, the scene where Charlotte calls home crying was very moving for me. Maybe I'm still finishing up the down part of my culture shock, so that feeling kind of touches close to home. I really thinks that this place changes people; just like how Charlotte mentioned that her husband's changed. And even more for him, since he's a photographer: his business is image, and image in this land of saving face and social procedures creeps to importance.

Another observation is about Bob and how everyday there are these people guiding him around from the Suntory whiskey company. I've had this idea of Japanese as being like children: they're always being hand-held and guided around. That's what I was getting from that pack of company folks who'd meet Bob every morning in the lobby. It's kind of like social hand-holding; mothers over-pamper their children, and men who come home without dinner on the table are stranded (heaven forbid even using the microwave to cook something up!). It doesn't show so much in the movie, but I got the sense of it. You could tell how Bob was getting annoyed of it, however. Anyways, I think that because of that, people get mentally lazy and become rather child-like.

I'll watch it again soon, and maybe I can get a better feel for the film and comment some more.


Was just talking with Jeremy about the mixed reactions some people had to Lost in Translation.
Some love it and others...well don't. Your points are really interesting and obviously educated.

I really identified with Bob, whether he was in Japan or anywhere. we all go through stuff he does, go through the motions at times, sell out. And I swear I could see identify with just the soulessness of the hotel lobby, they are all like that. Nothing against hotel lobbies but you see my point.

#16 - Posted by: Carol at February 5, 2004 08:45 AM

Soullessness is one aspect of the film, and from my perspective of modern society here (and from my position here), I can sort of understand the feeling. It's not really all just that, however. Japanese people are just not expressive people, so it can often seem like they're emotionless. People I meet for the first time sometimes know that I'm not Japanese because (they say) my face moves more; apparently, I'm rather expressive with my face.

Anyhow, I'm still not sure about how the title fits with the film. For the first half, I can understand the title--and obviously with the part in the studio when filming the whiskey ad.

But I get that it's saying more than just about cultural differences. Maybe Bob is lost in Japan? I keep thinking about Charlotte's husband. Maybe he's lost himself, and Charlotte can feel herself losing herself more. She's losing her feelings in the giant metropolis.

I was talking with my friend yesterday, and I was telling him how I felt like my personality may be shrinking. Maybe I'm losing my personality?

What do I mean?

I have an idea that I have a Japanese personality. Because of my limited linguistic ability here, I can only portray a certain aspect of myself, and I can't be the same person I am in English. So, I kind of have an Ivan, Jr. personality in Japanese whereas in English I'm the full deal.

And I've been kind of frightened that this Ivan, Jr. is effecting my full personality: shrinking it because that's the way I'm becoming accustomed to being, and because that's the only way I can be here when I must speak Japanese and use Ivan, Jr. So, in that way, I'm becoming "lost in translation."

How's that for hitting close to home?

Ivan(, Jr.)

#18 - Posted by: Ivan at February 6, 2004 01:59 AM

Hi Ivan jr or Ivan sr (which ever one is reading this ;-) ) that does put it well. But I also think the point of the film was we don't have to fully lose in translation, as long as we can still connect with fellow humans on some level. That's what I liked about it and it didn't have to be some dramatic connection, just two people.

And in resonse to my post, yes I like having a routine. It frees my mind to be creative too. I write better with structure in my life.

Dean apparently does need to win Wisconsin or he is out. Man, weird to think how this all switched on a dime. Iowa is one powerful state man.

#19 - Posted by: Carol at February 6, 2004 02:32 AM

There's a translated transcript of the Suntory commercial scene here:


#21 - Posted by: Thierry at February 8, 2004 07:17 AM

HellO Ivan! Wonderful to hear from you! And guess who I heard from via e-mail just today? Your ex Pinkhouse soap-watchin' roommate Chung Boem Lee. That's right. People from the past seem to shout back all at the same time.

I am dying to watch Lost in Translation. I have been waiting for ages, and its going to FINALLY come out next week here in Taipei Taiwan. Thank God it swept the Golden Globes; I'm sure such movies wouldn't stand a chance getting exported out here otherwise. Let's see if I can butt in with a comment or two after viewing the film. Meanwhile, have you heard or seen Japanese Story? I haven't and nono, I'm not just suggesting it because it has Japanese people in it, but the movie and Lost in Translation and The Last Samurai were the subjects of a NYT commentary I read sometime back that was examining the way Japanese people are portrayed in movies (that is, 'stereotypical' and thereby 'racist'), and was wondering what your thoughts on the characterization of Japanese people in Western media are.

#22 - Posted by: Jenn at February 9, 2004 12:16 AM

Thanks for the posting of the translation, Thierry! :) I understood like 80% of the scene when I first watched it, and I thought it was very funny. I agree with some folks on that site that it's good that there were no subtitles because you're supposed to be in Bob's shoes and not able to understand.

And also, hello, Jenn! :) It's good to hear that the Chunginator is still Chungin' away! And great to hear from you as well! As for your inquiry about the portrayal of Japanese people in Hollywood: I saw Last Samurai, and it's hard for me to comment on whether that's a good portrayal of Japanese because it takes place in a different kind of Japan. That film is (I believe) sometime in the early 1900's at the end of the Meiji Era when much of Japan was becoming "modernized" at an incredible pace. My Japanese friends really liked the film, though, and they thought that Ken Watanabe did an incredible job portraying the essense of the samurai. Also, most of the Japanese girls liked Tom Cruise, but that's besides the point. :)

In terms of Lost in Translation, I think the Japanese were portrayed quite well. The people in the hotel lobby: there are people I've met people like that. The people in the Suntory studio, such as the director and the shy and overly-polite translator: I've met people like that. The people they went partying with: I've met people like that. And just general people around the streets: it's really like that on the streets of Tokyo. Of course, there are many kinds of people with different aspects to them in any society; but, in terms of not going overboard or such, I think LIT did a good job.

Carol, I think I need to have another viewing to get the full effect of this film. :)

Thanks, everyone for your comments, and keep'em coming!

#23 - Posted by: Ivan at February 10, 2004 02:27 PM

Well watch it again if you want. I mean it might not be for everybody. Like I said, I have friends who didn't like it so much.

#24 - Posted by: Carol at February 11, 2004 09:23 AM

I watched it again last night but... err... I was watching it after drinking 3 shots of vodka, 2 glasses of plum wine, and 1 glass of kind of sweet Chinese wine. And I fell asleep halfway through it. Doh!

#25 - Posted by: Ivan at February 12, 2004 12:04 AM
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