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Old March 3rd, 2004, 10:17 PM   #1
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Lost In Translation- A Discussion

So, i was reading the thread about how a lot of us are unable to watch a movie with the same eye that we used to before we knew how they did everything (http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...threadid=21848).

While reading it, Lost In Translation came into mind. I think i'm the only person i've talked to that thought the film was "just okay" rather than "totally amazing". I recently tried to have a discussion with a fellow filmmaker about Lost in Translation. I asked him why he liked it and all he could do was say, "it was just so good".

Maybe i missed something or some idea in the film that is making it seem like a high-budget student film. I'm beginning to think some of these people are not looking at film and analyzing it, but rather taking the popular position and sticking with it.

I do like Sophia Coppola, don't get me wrong. I thought the Virgin Suicides was awesome, but i don't think LiT was quite up to par. I don't think it met the standard she set for herself with the Virgin Suicides. Anyway, i'd like some thoughts on the film focusing mostly on the plot (or lack of).
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Old March 3rd, 2004, 10:35 PM   #2
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I tend to agree with you. The fact that it won best screenplay at the academy awards is somewhat of a farce. To me, Bill Murray is incomparable, but this movie is a short film dragged out to feature length and without Bill Murray's improv ability would have been boring as hell. It's beautifully shot and has some clever moments, but it's not a terrifically great film, as everyone seems to think. As a friend, who is not a filmmaker, said "It's like 'OK, we get the picture already.'"



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Old March 3rd, 2004, 10:36 PM   #3
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So, how long have you been talking to yourself, Gino? ;)
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Old March 4th, 2004, 12:42 AM   #4
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Whew. Thanks to Matthew and Gino. I thought it was just me.

Did you notice how all the scenes seemed truncated? Especially the Bill Murray scenes. The tv commercial shoot. The scene at the tv station with the wierd host. Bill and Scarlett go out to dinner. Bill and Scarlett see Tokyo. I got the feeling an editor said, "Very nice. Now, what is this scene about?" Cut, cut, cut.

I could say something about the May-December thing, but I'll pass. The great Spanish director, Carlos Saura, does a lot with this theme, and I think he's silly when he does it also; but I find his stories more interesting. LiT just bored me after awhile.

Shhh. Don't let the other side know we're here.

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Old March 4th, 2004, 01:16 AM   #5
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I felt that the character development in the film was excellent. I knew everything about them. But, you know... i don't want to know everything about them. I don't care that they went to Tokyo and felt out of place and then had a good time once they met. This has probably happened many times before and will probably happen again. I didn't find anything super special about the shots, the lighting was kinda cool, but such is the lighting in Tokyo and I thought some parts were worth a chuckle or two.

I am also very glad there wasn't a romance between ol' bill and what's-her-face (i'm really not good with names). That would have been a disaster.

Maybe i'm wrong... i mean, i hope i am, but i think the only reason Sophia got the recognition she did is because she is the daughter of the Godfather himself. Francis Ford is a genius, but genius-ism is not hereditary. I went to a film fest last year (Resfest `03) and i saw a short film by another Coppola and it was probably the absolute worst film i saw that night.

Rick- you'd be surprised.....................
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Old March 4th, 2004, 06:08 AM   #6
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I really liked how it was shot and more importantly how it felt.
It felt a lot more real then most type of relations on screen, but
that might have something to do with my own experiences.

Wayne: I actually liked the off-cutting. A lot of things where a
bit "off" with the movie and that felt new and refreshing to me.

Anyways, I need to watch it again a couple of times before I can
make up mind about how good it is (or not).
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Old March 4th, 2004, 06:09 AM   #7
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I think LiT is a very good film. Not great a great film, but very good. I am not sure, however, that I would have given it an Oscar for best screenplay.

In this film are two lost people -- unsure of what they are doing or why and going through the motions largely for the sake of others -- surrounded by people (husbands who run off, wives who FedEx carpet samples, fans) who really have no idea that they are lost. They recognize they are in the same situation and find some degree of comfort in each other's company for a time. It is very much a romance, even if only more a father-daughter thing. If it weren't for the romance there'd be no movie.

The story is set in a very interesting way against Toyko, and, more broadly, against Japanese culture. Wandering around Toyko the girl observes the extremes of the culture from contemp. arcades to traditional flower arranging looking for the meaning of it all and, by doing so, meaning in her own life. She's not finding it (as we see early in the film when she goes to see the monks and then phones home to say she "felt nothing" and is upset). It's only when she meets Bill that she begins to find some calm.

I'd say it's more subtle than slow. Because I lived in Hawaii (very influenced by asian cultures, esp. Japanese) for a little while I found the the film evocative. I also thought it captures a certain mood of the often disconnected, short-sighted, isolated nature of modern life (travel, certainly) very well. The "truncated" pace works to reenforce this mood.

What I liked best was the struggle to tell the story in moving pictures rather than dialogue. This might be what people of the academy saw in it besides "Coppola." This is the first film I have seen in awhile that does not knock you over the head with a lot of talking. I also like the use of Toyko as a character.
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Old March 4th, 2004, 06:18 AM   #8
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Well put Peter! Couldn't (and haven't <g>) said it better myself.
I think it very honoustly portrays the feeling of lonelyness, being
disconnected and everybody is buzzing around you. I'm not sure
a lot of people actually really know that feeling.
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Old March 4th, 2004, 08:04 AM   #9
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For my part, I'll paste in a comment I made about the film in a similar discussion on another forum where some folks wanted to know why anyone would think it's such a great film.

"
- I LOVED the cinematography and general texture of the film
- I adored the atmosphere of the film - the actual settings and sounds
- I understood and identified with the feeling of giddily wandering without intention with a new friend, as the characters did in this film; the innocence of a new friendship with no emotional baggage
- I very much enjoyed the choice of music
- I found the dialog very real and human, and both entertaining and charming all at once

I could go on, but for me, specifically, these things put it at a very high appreciation level for me, and if I was to be stranded on a desert island with nothing but a DVD player and one movie made in the past year, I would personally pick LIT over pretty much any other film, because of the way it makes me feel.
"
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Old March 4th, 2004, 09:00 AM   #10
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Peter and Imran got it right. On other websites I get the feeling some didn't like it because there weren't any explosions and car chases.

I wasn't watching the cinematography that much and don't remember now but I find it interesting that the cinematograhers I know all diss the shooting and mark it off to the low budget.
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Old March 4th, 2004, 09:49 AM   #11
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Lost in Translation is the most inspiring film I've seen in a long, long time. To me, it reminded me of a lot of the 60s and 70s films that focused on realism and the inner story.

I loved the zen-like calmness of it, and...as my sister put it, the fact that it felt like taking a ride in people's heads. The use of available lighting made it beautiful...I'm so put off by slick unnatural lighting that you see ALL the time nowadays. Sure, some films/scenes warrant it, but not all scenes.

But from the perspective of an American who's lived in Asia for almost a decade, and who's traveled quite a bit and practically lived in hotels for periods...this movie hits dead on target with that type of lifestyle. It's true that people who share the same language, or culture, or country and who stay in the same hotel for awhile eventually gravitate toward one another and experience little short-term but close friendships. Since your time together is short...you cut through all the small talk crap and get down to having real discussions much more quickly than you do at home.

And FWIW, the scene where they're lying on the bed and he's telling her about his family--filmmaking doesn't get any better than that.
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Old March 4th, 2004, 09:57 AM   #12
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An interesting thing about the whole cinematography/low budget thing. One of my favorite films is a low budget indie by the name of Next Stop Wonderland, directed by Brad Anderson. One of my favorite things about that film was the texture and cinematography. Often if not always handheld, it had a really good feel and style to it that to me seemed very intimate with the characters, while at the same time retaining good production values. The film stock itself had a grain to it that matched the production very well.

Not too long after, Brand Anderson put out Happy Accidents. I enjoyed the film, wacky though it was. But I found it very annoying with this film with an obviously higher budget and better quality 35mm film stock paired with better lighting, occasionally did the handheld thing. It just didn't work with the clean image of that film, in my opinion. The two things seemed very much at odds with each other.

My point is basically that while it's often easy for very technical and literate cinematographers and/or DPs to mark off something like Lost in Translation as just a result of low-budget production values, perhaps people may also want to consider that Sofia Coppola made the choices she did because it best represented her story. After all, with a name like Coppola, she could have gone for bigger budget had she really, really wanted it - the avenues are there for her. But that wasn't the point of the texture of this film. Therefore, an active cinematic choice.

The reason often indie films seem more real and true to human form is because they are often shot in a way that allows more chance for reality to 'happen' - something more difficult to accomplish in a huge soundstage somewhere. So big budget or no budget - it's still a legitimate 'choice' to shoot indie style.



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Old March 4th, 2004, 10:04 AM   #13
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I guess Imran pretty much got it right. The film just struck the right chords with him, and he responded. It has been said that "film should take you to places you have never been and introduce you to people you have never met," and certainly I would agree that LiT lived up to those criteria.

Interestingly, Lost in Translation won even more awards at the Independent Spirit Awards pre-Oscar night. I believe it was chosen "best film" of the year.

And certainly any film that has people talking can't be that bad. Ever get involved in any spirited discussions of "Gigli?"

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Old March 4th, 2004, 10:08 AM   #14
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I think my problem is that i have spent so much time not making a movie because i'm looking for an interesting story. And then here comes a film with extremely subtle comedy and romance and it wins an oscar for best screenplay. I guess what gets to me is that anybody could have done what Sophia did. I didn't think there was anything unique about the film that distinguished it from anything else.

The dialogue was indeed very human, which is good. However, i think a lot of movies do that. The cinematography was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the screenplay had some cool sidenotes or something that the academy liked. I don't know... everything just seemed way too subtle and plain.
Telling the story visually worked relatively well, but then something like The Triplets of Belleville comes out where you know exactly how the person is just by looking and them, not considering the fact that it is an animated film. Its the first "silent" film i have seen since the coming of sound. That was sheer genius.

Maybe in order to have liked it, you'd have to be able to relate in some way or another? I don't know... i'm trying to like it and appreciate it. I'm trying to find out just why people like Imran like it to the point where if they could only see one film for the rest of their life, that would be it. Perhaps i just have to accept the fact that i didn't like it and then crawl back into my lowly hole.

Peter- i don't understand exactly what you mean when you say, "i liked the use of Tokyo as a character." How so?

I am a huge fan of indie and low budget films as long as they are good. I don't need explosions or sex to sell me on a movie. What i need is an interesting, well developed story and plot and i felt LiT lacked both.

I also didn't like 21 Grams... it just kept pissing me off. I liked how the stories came together and how it was edited, but the plot itself... bah. But anyway, that's a whole other thread. ;)
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Old March 4th, 2004, 10:17 AM   #15
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Maybe we're going through a small film industry revolution and i'm not seeing it. The move back to simplicity. I think what i'm looking for is something greater than what i've seen, not something more basic. But maybe we're moving back in time, but making more modern approaches... it makes sense in my head. i don't know how i'm doing relaying the ideas. I just keep thinking about the simplicity in the film and the fact that Triplets of Belleville, though animated, had only like 3 or 4 lines throughout the entire film. We'll see what happens next year.
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