I don’t remember when I watched Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film “Lost in Translation” for the first time or for that matter why it’s taken me this long to write a review about it. I remember there was some hot air about it and the accolades, the airy script and unconventional wit, or maybe I just had so much more on my plate I didn’t have room for another character driven slice of life pie – but I probably could have used some verisimilitude, don’t we all? I could blame it on the rush to catch up to the decades worth of films I’ve watched over my lifetime, or say the line about how there’s only so many hours in the day, that I got from a calendar when I was ten, back when banks gave them away instead of foreclosure notices. I could say I’ve been meaning to review it and have notes on the subject but mostly I want to thank a friend of mine who had quite a different reaction to the film, thus inspiring me to take a look, and I felt compelled to start remembering and see why I watch it so often just to get away.
It must have been frightening for Sofia that first time, her debut the Virgin Suicides in 1999, except that she slammed it over the fence, a home run, clearly living beyond the shadow of her famous father’s directors chair. For number two it was the same love affair with minutiae, the layers of characters both imagined and actor, story less about plot mechanics and more living truthfully through imaginary circumstances. I’m not compelled to challenge my friend’s opinion or yours if you disliked it, I think there are some incredible aspects whether you loved it or hated it, but I do want to point out the importance of difference in Sofia’s films and how much the weight of air matters sometimes most of all. It is helpful to embrace the fact that LIT pretty much goes against the very covenants of what all films set out to do or at least erect some similar scaffolding to move us along – that is to instill a sense of knowing what to expect and what kind of adventure and characters are involved. LIT is about the timeless void of slowing down, coming to a stand still in a world moving a thousand miles an hour around you. It’s not an easy proposition to go against the stream of fashion, but the journey scatters us in possibility if we try. Perhaps that is why there’s such a divide between the exhilarated and the bored dry.
If Lost In Translation fails the many it is for the very reason that it ultimately succeeds for the few, speaking to the deepest unspoken desires about our constant war with loneliness in all the rooms full of people of our lives. It is in this quiet place that Sofia engages us with the sharp elbows and indifferent faces we find there in our own lives, that she touches ever so gently on the fleetingness of this here and now falling down existence to be content with the simple pleasures of being ourselves. It is because Sofia knows the depths of an isolated heart cut off from the world and desperate to enjoy silence with someone and the burden of celebrity that she captures so well the most unsettling love story she could imagine, one she’s lived and is living, about two people passing forever for a little while. The proximity of enjoyment is slight, I admit that, but just being in the same place is enough to be truly happy with stillness. In a world of thousand mile an hour deception and machine gun fire, superficiality sold to the highest bidder and commoditized reality television celebritydom, it’s not so much wonder that many miss the nearly indecipherable merits of matters of the heart without all the stuff we’ve come to rely on in our relationships with movies. Lost In Translation takes an unconventional path to unburdening our reliance on filler, offering us a leaner, more refined story of two people who have no business finding one another but do in the least likely of places and once there they have no idea what to make of it but know enough to enjoy it while it lasts.
Lost in Translation is as much about experiences had as imagined, like the ones you spend a lifetime pretending, the trips to far away places and backyard roller coaster rides, the famous faces and personal goals of self improvements, finding the one and only soul mate, learning how to disconnect and unplug over dinner. It is about people, places and things getting in the way of spending time with someone who really understands you and is happy with running through a crowd to catch a bus when you really don’t have to be anywhere. It is about never having those awkward silences or when you do it’s because you’re sharing a joke no one else in the elevator gets or the fact that you like something for the exact reason everyone else finds foolish or offensive or just so unimportant in the grand scheme of the universe of things. Lost in Translation is about the airy stuff of seconds and people aging backwards or not at all, people caught up in one another so completely as to find complete and lasting happiness in the smallest of places and forget they’re heading to different tomorrows. The conversions made are how we change one thing for another, things for other things, and in seeing two people who don’t have any reason to connect so profoundly in their seconds together, we realize the translation is a lot like our expectations when all we really have to do is remember how to get lost together.