Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê
johnnyfavorite

looking through a glass onion

i really wanted to like lost in translation. sofia coppola made a real effort to do something a little different, and i'm all for that. there were so many situations that i was afraid were going to veer off into the usual cliches, but didn't. alas, that's not enough to make a captivating film, a fact i am reminded of over and over again.

in case you've somehow missed the hype, it's the story of two people who meet in japan: charlotte, an aimless wife following her husband around, played by the lovely and fascinating scarlett johansson, and bob, a faded action movie star, played by the creepy and disconcerting bill murray. and here we encounter my first objection to the film. according to sofia's own words in one of the documentaries on the dvd, she felt so strongly about murray playing her faded action movie star that, had he declined, she was not going to make the film. bill murray? yes, i've seen quite a few of his 500 films, like most people, i guess. he was pretty good in rushmore, and his other 499 roles were somewhere between mediocre and dismal. sofia dreams up this story of melancholy and dislocation, and decides that it absolutely must star ... bill murray?

yes, i feel bad about this prejudice. especially since i have to admit bill did a really good job with the role. this and rushmore are the only two things i've ever seen him in that i thought were any good. but for crying out loud, it's BILL MURRAY! i could not relax for the entire duration of the film, afraid he was going to turn into ... well, bill murray.
SCENE: Park Hyatt Tokyo. Night. CHARLOTTE and BOB are lying on a hotel room bed, BOB on his back facing the ceiling, CHARLOTTE on her side to his right, facing away from him.

CHARLOTTE
Does it get easier?

BOB
No. Yes. It gets easier.

CHARLOTTE
Yeah? But look at you.

BOB
(sarcastically) Thanks. It does get easier. The more you know what you want, the less you let things upset you.

CHARLOTTE
I just don't know what I'm supposed to be. I tried being a writer, but I hate what I write. I tried taking pictures, but John's good at that, and mine are so mediocre, and every girl goes through a photography phase, like horses, you know, dumb pictures of your feet.

BOB
Gosh. That's hard. You know what might help? (BOB brandishes a heretofore unseen SPATULA.) THE AUNT JEMIMA TREATMENT! (Suddenly animated, BOB tries to shove SPATULA underneath CHARLOTTE.) HAR! HAR! HAR! YUK! YUK! YUK!

now that i think about it, that would have been pretty cool, wouldn't it.

here's my next big objection to the film. one of the cliches sofia did succumb to is "younger, inexperienced girl has a crush on older, worldly guy." i am getting to be older myself, if not worldly, and sure, i like talking to young girls. who doesn't? they are SOOOO adorable. but those experiences have taught me that young girls are interested in guys their own age. thank god.

so, let's recap. charlotte discovering something interesting and resonant in an older guy that she wasn't expecting to see: check. charlotte finding herself increasingly disinterested in her shallow husband: check. charlotte having a crush on a guy old enough to be her grandfather, and getting annoyed with him when he sleeps with a goopy lounge singer: NO. NO, NO, NO. YUCK. this is the kind of fantasy wish-fulfillment you expect from your average middle-aged male director, but sofia coppola? why? what must have been going through her mind ... i don't even want to speculate.

this sort of film taunts me so. it could have been SO GOOD with just a few minor changes. note to self: it doesn't matter how much positive buzz you hear, nor from what sources, you won't like it. i guess i'm learning my lesson, as i am pretty much retreating from fiction films. i think i've seen maybe six of them in all of 2004.

i am much more interested in the stories behind the movies. (i guess that's why i prefer documentaries.) i googled up some speculation claiming that charlotte's photographer husband is based on sofia coppola's real-life soon-to-be-ex-husband, video and film director spike jonze. yeah, i can see that. the film husband was played by giovanni ribisi, who bears more than a passing resemblance to jonze. coppola paints an unflattering picture of him, and they're getting divorced. sofia denies the connection, but then she'd have to, wouldn't she.

due to a film-related entry in rollick's blog, i discovered that my favorite film of all time was recently released on dvd, which showed up in the mail the other day. festen, the story of a successful family with a really terrible secret. the family is having a party to celebrate their dad's sixtieth birthday. in an early scene, one of his sons stands up to make a toast, prattles away at the usual platitudes for a minute or two, then tells everyone assembled all about his family's secret, in shocking, gory detail. now, that's my kind of wish-fulfillment. if there is anyone in the world strong enough and reckless enough to do that, i would certainly like to meet them. it's a hell of a lot more heroic than mowing down bad guys with machine guns.

i haven't seen it since sometime in, oh, 1999 i guess. i was killing time watching late-night cable, and happened to channel-surf into it. the dialogue is entirely in danish, but having to read subtitles didn't blunt the impact of that amazing revelatory introduction. the film feigns this way and that, and at one point i was sure it had backed away from that big bold beginning, but no, it was just creating a little bit of a space, so it could punch me in the guts all over again. i've never seen anything like it. i recorded it to vhs and watched it several more times, but it never got any easier. it kept slaying me over and over again, dredging up ugly parallels from my past.

i am afraid to watch it. i've gotten so much more critical lately. i've bought a lot of old films on dvd out of nostalgia, and i haven't liked any of them. if i don't like this one ...
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