Monday, April 06, 2009

#17 Film of the Decade- Lost in Translation


Lost in Translation- Sofia Coppola (2003)

Most entries in this series benefit from a bit of distance since part of what interests me about the list in the first place is the legacy of the films involved. For most of the pictures, their legend has only grown over the years. In many ways Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation has not.

When it was released in October of 2003, its critical reception was lustfully hyperbolic. It was catnip for the type of guy who reviews movies: a bittersweet almost-love story in an exotic locale with spare, understated dialogue and subtle performances, starring a smoking hot chick and Bill Murray on the first stop of Jowlfest: The Reunion World Tour. I think I penciled it in here the second I saw him carry her to her room in step with My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes." (I've never seen the appeal of fan-fiction, but I could start something quite racy with, "I heard 'Sometimes' as I carried Scarlett to her room...")

Unfortunately for Coppola, that was then and this is now. The reputation of this bittersweet almost-love story in an exotic locale with spare, understated dialogue and subtle performances will be determined on DVD and cable presentations that do nothing but test our patience for such things. Those wordless, lyrical scenes of Charlotte wandering through Tokyo are gorgeous, that self-aware line she has about a phase of "photographing her own feet" is so piercing, but you will change the channel when this is on TBS.


Best part of the movie, bra.

Hollywood still feeds us bombastic event movies because we're convinced that we cannot wait for them on video. We believe that the small screen cannot do them justice. But films like this one are what really get hurt by Netflix queues. Lost in Translation depends wholly on its cumulative effect. It's a slow burn that begs for your concentration and is only rewarding once it builds its stakes. Ironically, this celebration of how tiny moments can change lives is best seen on a huge scale. The people who loved it so much initially saw it that way. They saw it before Scarlett started acting backwards, before Bill Murray's sad-sack routine became de rigeur, before Coppola made Marie Antoinette. The people who have seen it on video cannot be trusted.

The characterization and motivation are so detailed and realistic here. The leads are unhurried and stirring. And the whole movie is pitch-perfect in its graduated yearning. I'm not worried that I was wrong about that six years ago. I'm worried that people will forget about it on a bathroom break.


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