If only I weren’t lost in translation

Though I couldn’t take pictures of the storm when I was looking at it from the parking lot last Monday, I did try to take some photos of it when I got home. However, when I started to take the pictures, my camera began emitting this high pitched whistle, just like the sound things make in the movies before they explode in a loud and dangerous manner.

Rather than tossing the camera through the air and diving into a ditch, I whipped off the battery cover and removed the battery. Not as dramatic, but not as hard on the camera. What caused the noise, I don’t know, but I hesitate to put that one battery back in.

The editor of Missouri Life is sending me a copy of the magazine featuring my photos and also arranging payment to me – payment! money! – and this forms the start for my new camera fund. I am going to buy a Nikon D70 because a) I like Nikon optics and quality; and b) I have several lens that will work with the D70. In the meantime, words will do until I have my new camera or feel brave enough to put the battery back into my old one.

However, it may be a time before I have the new camera because I have become very frugal of late, cutting our fripperies right and left in esthetic abandon. I am indulging in just one splurge–a monthly subscription to Netflix. Thanks to it, I’ve managed to finally see Big Fish, Lost in Translation, Seabiscuit and several other less than memorable films. That and my library, my computer and the Internet, a small drive in the car and a long hike, and above all, my whistling camera, and I am content.

I thought that Seabiscuit was charming, but a little predictable. I really liked Big Fish – I loved the tall tales and the actors and the narrative and the end, and thought it was a very good film. But Lost in Translation, now that was a fine movie. Since I am probably the last person to have seen it, nothing I can say about the movie should be spoiler, but be forewarned.

People have said the movie was about these two strangers who find each other, and not about them being in Japan, but I have to disagree: Japan forms a third character, the straight man the other actors play against.

The premise behind the movie is two people alienated from their surroundings who happen to find each other. Not only are they alienated in the environment in which they find themselves in Japan – a country with a different culture and language– we learn over time they are also alienated from those who love them: the young woman can’t connect with her husband and his hollywood lifestyle; the aging actor looks at spilled color samples, trying to understand which is burgundy among all the pinks.

If the movie had taken place on a beach in Oregon or some such thing, all we would have seen was two dissatisfied people who can’t seem to find contentment with their very good lives. Instead, by putting this movie in Japan, the lack of connection both experience originates first from an external source; an impression lasting long enough, and being familiar enough, for the audience to get to know and even like both of the main characters. Rather than two spoiled people who refuse to be content with their lives, we meet two people who are lost, lonely even in the midst of friends and family and admirers, and the bright neon lights.

I’ve heard people condemn the movie for stereotyping, but the impressions I received of people in Japan from this movie are that they are gracious, charming, friendly, patient, and have wonderful senses of humor. I wouldn’t mind it if people stereotyped Americans that way.

No, rather than crude stereotyping, what we’re given is a look at Bob and Charlotte’s perceptions of their surroundings. What we see through their eyes is what they expected to see, and what astonished them to see. The ordinary is invisible.

There were so many scenes I loved in Lost In Translation. I loved the scene with the prostitute and the nylons, and thought I would choke I was laughing so hard. I also enjoyed the hospital scene with the two ladies laughing politely behind their hands in the background at Bob’s non-conversation with the older Japanese person; or when Charlotte was exploring and Bob was riding in the Taxi through the streets – and the quiet elegance found within these visually exploding scenes.

In the end, when Bob runs up to Charlotte and they hold each other and he whispers something in her ear, and we don’t know what it is–what a perfect ending. What a marvelous ending. I would save all my pennies to go to Japan if only I could have a moment, one single moment of that ending.

I was thinking about this movie last week when I sat in the dark looking out the window at the storm, too late in an evening or too early in a morning. I found myself wondering: if I were feeling lost and alienated, what words would I want to hear whispered in my ear?

I also thought that I would rather be lost in translation than lost in Hoboken, New Jersey. And if I were lost in Hoboken, New Jersey, I wondered if I could find a way to blame it on the Japanese.

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