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May 10, 2006



I was a big fan of this show when I used to live in Japan. He is, arguably, the sharpest talkshow host in Japan (reminds of Conan O'Brien in the United States).

I did feel that Lost in Translation was dated; there is an increasing number of English-capable Japanese, and the "Suntory Time" scene was unbelievable to me.


Hmm, you have a point, in that no firm would go to the trouble of spending millions on a big-name celebrity endorser only to scrimp on getting a good translator.

That said, though, I do think the scene hints at difficulties of translation which all interpreters must deal with, even if it does go in for the easy laughs: with two languages as different as English and Japanese, there are bound to be nuances that are ... ahem .. lost in translation. I mean, how does one go about succintly translating, say, the implications of calling one's boss 御前, or using やつ to refer to a third party, without giving a mini-lecture in honorifics? To the degree that a language is in part an embodiment of culture, and cultures differ from place to place, such difficulties are inevitable.

Then again, perhaps I'm overthinking and giving Coppola too much credit. It isn't as if her movie lacks for faux-sophistication - take the silly bit of snobbery about Evelyn Waugh being a man, for instance, as if not knowing such a thing were a crime.


Okay - so maybe I am overphilosophizing this; but I thought the Suntory Time part was a metaphor for the whole concept? That in spite of the wealth and imported Western sophistication of the East / Japan; both cultures would always remain "Lost in Translation"? And then I thought what Coppola was doing was extending this to the whole air of "misunderstanding between similars" of Johansson and her beau. Thus, I thought the ludicrousity of the Suntory Time part to be deliberate. Orientalist, in a kind of Kiplingish way. Now, I dont deny that just plain old stereotyping might have been in effect, but I felt Coppola was straining for a near absurdist feel to the whole movie. Again, the stocking and the TV show parts: I felt they were deliberate and had nothing to do with even trying to represent Japan evenly.

My knowledge of Japanese TV shows being somewhat in need of remedial attention: I am unaware of the equivalent of a bear masturbating to Sabre dance on the Japanese TV circuit.
Yesterday's Chicago show was *!!!*


"so maybe I am overphilosophizing this"

I think that is a distinct possibility. From what I've read, the "Charlotte" character is Sofia Coppola as she wished she were - a beautiful Yale-graduate "Mary Sue" - while her put-upon photographer husband is actually a stand-in for Coppola's ex-boyfriend Spike Jonze; Coppola's own declared motivation for making the movie was that she'd daydreamed of Bill Murray rescuing her from a boring situation. In other words, what you see here on the surface really is mostly what you get, and pretty much all the best parts of the movie are due to inspired ad-libbing on the parts of various actors like Bill Murray, the guy playing the Suntory director, Matthew Minami in character, etc. (with overrated thespian Scarlet Johansson very definitely excluded from this august company).

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