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Movie: Lost in Translation

movie posterI saw Lost in Translation awhile back, and I was surprised to find that I didn't actually write an entry for it. I'm not going to take the time to write a full review right now, though maybe I will when the DVD arrives from Amazon, but I will take this opportunity to post this comment I left on Joi Ito's site on asianmediawatch.net mobilizes against "Lost In Translation". The thread brings up the topic of rascism in Lost in Translation, and a petition by asianmediawatch to ask that Academy voters vote against it.

I spent half my life growing up in Japan and the other half in America. Thoughout I've been an American, struggling to understand and partake in the Japanese culture and ancestry that I share as a half-Japanese American.

I don't see LIT as racist. From a pedantic point of view the division is cultural, not racial. From a personal point of view, the disconnect that the main characters feel with the Japanese culture, and the lack of identification that Mimi cites, is one that I personally feel, despite the many years I have spent in Japan. My struggle to connect with the Japanese culture doesn't mean that I denigrate the culture, or that I have a condescending view of it. Similarly, portraying this disconnect that others and I naturally feel in a movie isn't automatically racist, nor does it display cultural elitism.

The important distinction is that, while stories like LIT can take the opportunity to portray one culture as being superior, LIT doesn't. If LIT had a scene where Bill Murray's character returns to America, and the American culture is elevated on a pedestal and portrayed as being superior, then I would change my opinion. Instead, LIT is filled with scenes such as Scarlett Johansson's character visiting Kyoto that are respectful, and it's clear that the characters' problems will not evaporate when they return to America.

I don't feel that my feelings are racist/cultural elitist, and I welcome movies that portray emotions that I personally can identify with. Petitions like this make me imagine a world where every movie is a tourism video instead of a story, a politically correct whitewash without any honest emotion or portrayals.

Comments (3)

Kenji:

I agree with you. LIT is more of a collection of images rather than judgements. Things just are, things just happen, they just experience, they don't assign values to the things they see. That's the point: the experience. It makes me sad to read about those petitions. Some people just don't get it.

Ken:

It annoys me even more now that I know asianmediawatch endorses the Last Samurai, which is a rehash of the classic "white man among others" theme, and is a dishonest, over-idealized portrayal of Meiji-era samurai. While I appreciate a good samurai film more than most people, the samurai it portrays is a myth, a cinematic creation. The real Meiji samurai were petty bureaucrats that had been causing suffering in the classes below them for the previous two centuries. To praise Last Samurai and petition against LIT just reeks of hypocrisy.

More notes on samurai here:
http://kwc.org/memorylane/mit/522/02.07.00%20The%20Idealized%20Samurai.htm

eswhy:

i watched lost in translation the other day, and i just couldn't understand how some people say it's boring and dragging. I could so much relate to the feelings of Charlotte and Bob. Although there is a hint of enthnocentrism present in the film, i think we shoud focus more on the emotional side of the characters, why do they feel isolated in Japan? perhaps, the director's goal was to emphaisize the cultural difference of Japan and America (east and west).And in the process, the character(bob) ended up making humorous reactions towards Japanese culture. But how would one react in these situations? i think it's better that he was at least humorous and light-herated about it instead of getting mad and going serious about it. I will be much more insulting for Japanese, i think.

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