Tuesday, April 20, 2004



As an old Japan hand I cringed when I read the storyline and background of Lost in Translation, directed by Sophia Coppola (daughter of Francis), who for the past several years has "stayed in Tokyo for a couple of weeks every year," probably at a ritzy hotel or such like, wandered exclusively zany around exclusive areas of Tokyo with exclusive friends doing exclusive things and forming exclusive opinions about this exclusively exotic special place, and losing none of the stereotypical baggage. Ls and Rs anyone? Inscrutability, anyone? Cartoony people anyone? SMALL people, anyone?

Characteristic of all stereotypes is that they are cheap and multiple. They are easy. Stereotypes that last beyond the stone of youth are the province of lazy thinkers, a category Hollywood has always done its best to foster.

Thus it was that I cringed at the thought of loosing this young Goddaughter with a movie budget under one arm and the clout of her name under the other to present to the world a graspable image and understanding of the 'real' Japan, the 'real' Japanese character, based on her experiences here: using as stars, the angst of foreigners here but temporarily, and as cartoony apprentices, Japanese and Japan itself.

Maybe the rest of the world has great fun seeing their stereotypes proven, but it's no surprise to me that Lost in Translation is only being shown in one small theater here. After all this time the Japanese still know themselves better than the rest of the world does, even frequent whirlwind visitors like Sophia who say they love Japan and this is how it really is. The Japanese are just too polite to criticize.

Sophia's motives may have been of the best, given the circumstances, and the movie may play well in the distant darkness of Peoria, but you can't really spin nitty-gritty reality out of greenhouse experience, any more than Paris Hilton can ever find true love.

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