sofia coppola did good with "lost in translation". not that she did bad with "virgin suicides", but her sophomore film defines her "girlishly dreamy" style and delivers a movie that touches the heart and head. i'm not going to review the movie or talk about the characters (jane's review by the way, is top buzz). i'm just going to blab my love for some things japanese.
i think i liked "lost in translation" so much because i saw a lot of my own tokyo-experiences in the movie. anything in life that i can personalize, i like even more. people have been lost in life and lost in love but very few people i know have been lost in tokyo! strange predicaments, all night clubbing, the surreal taxi ride with your polite white-gloved chauffeur at 4 am...it could happen anywhere, but it's magical when it happens in a country so foreign, you can't decipher signs or speak the language.
with "lost in translation", i felt sofia told the world a big secret. but you wouldn't know the secret unless you'd previously experienced tokyo. for most westerners, japan is chaos: hi fi, giant electronic billboards, karaoke and wacky cute street fashion. then there is control: shogun warriors, stoic faces and impeccable manners. tokyo is controlled chaos (lost in translation is too). if you've ever crossed the street in shibuya at 11 pm, you know what i'm talking about. old and new, side-by-side breeds amazing hosts and creative talent. fun can be had all day and night with your guides, yet loneliness sets in quickly once you find yourself back in your skyrise hotel room. what should i do with myself? where shall i wander? locals don't know where the hell they're going so am i going to end up in some back alley...and find a delightful out-of-the-way unagi and rice shop? probably not because i've turned on the telly and instead of venturing out, i'm stuck inside glued to tokyo's wildly eclectic television programming. the last time i was in the city i caught a show involving a sport so strange, i couldn't believe kids were encouraged to participate. a row of 20+ elementary school kids would bind their legs to their mates and run as fast as they could over a short distance (think three-legged race but with dozens of participants). in order to stop, the kids had to crash into big thick gymnastic mats at the end of the course. it was the national championship and the competition was hairy and exciting. some kids tripped and were dragged portions of the racetrack while the two end-kids violently swung their arms to create momentum. it was so ridiculous and i was addicted.
japanese youth culture aficionados are allowed in on a few more secrets. sofia, owner of milk fed, a street fashion label popular in japan pays homage to tokyo trendsetter, hiroshi fujiwara, by allowing him a cameo in her movie (scarlett/charlotte sits down next to him in the club before she goes running out with bill/bob to the streets of tokyo). there are many other cameos by japanese pop culture icons like charlie brown (fumihiro hayashi) who goes by this name in real life, photographer hiromix and nao of b's international (milk fed's japanese distributor). there are subtle crowd shots with kids rockin' bape. clubs (orange) that no longer exist have been rebuilt to keep the moment genuine.
it is sofia's eye for authenticity that keeps "lost in translation" sincere and grounded. i selfishly wish she hadn't shared her vision. but i am delighted the cultural movement overlooked in the late 90s has finally been documented on film.