File spoon-archives/postcolonial.archive/postcolonial_2004/postcolonial.0402, message 6

Subject: Re: Lost in Translation
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2004 15:10:37 +0100

I second Salil and Shaun.

I think that LiT is an excellent artifact that illustrates with finesse the
different emotional/transitional phases one goes through when integrating
another culture or encountering "alterity".  (ie: confusion, anger,
rejection, adaptation, independence, imitation, etc) I didn't find the
stereotypes offensive as they were used "context".  The characters used them
to generate comic relief from the stress, anxiety and boredom involved in
integrating a new culture. Let us not go overboard, recognize cultural
generalizations exist because there is some truth in them.  Our goal in
integrating and understanding should be to see the differences and
exceptions to these stereotypes, to go beyond them.  To cultivate a personal
relationship with the culture and people.

Living in France (an American in exile, so to speak), I didn't think the
film would be a success in the States believing it would be perceived as
"tedious" to a US audience not used to contemplative atmospheres and
filmmaking (a more european style of cinema).  I though that Americans would
be more upset with Coppola's criticism and portrayal (archetypes) of ugly
Americans - the obnoxious dilettante/star - typical American business men
and the "lounge singer in exile" singing in a cosmopolitan ghetto, not at
all integrated into the society she's chosen as home.  Charlotte and Bob are
"culturally" sensitive and have already had experiences abroad.  The
references are perhaps too subtle to be picked up by an American audience.
For example, did anyone notice that Bob was speaking to another Japanese
fellow in French during the "nostalgic" party evening with Charlotte's
Japanese friends that she must have met before this visit.  (The Japanese
were not at all represented in derogatory way - except to the degree that
certain are representative of modern hip cosmopolitan youth - and that is a
seperate issue, i think.)

What troubles most people is that the film is too subtle ... hence, the
comic moments stand out more than the "telling" details (subtle
differences/ambiguous instances).   Even my French students here in Grenoble
complained of the film being "boring" and "tedious".   I think that people
are often too quick to jump on the obvious (sameness) and this film
illustrates that tendency in lots of ways.  I always tell my US and French
students that when they are getting ready to encounter another culture, they
must cultivate the capacity to tolerate boredom and ambiguity, for it is
only in those instances that progress and discoveries are made.
(Breakthroughs)  I also think that S Coppola intuitively understands and
manages to "film" these strange emotional states that we inhabit when we
really transcend and trans-communicate across cultures, space and time.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Salil Tripathi" <>
To: <postcolonial-AT-lists.village.Virginia.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2004 10:42 AM
Subject: RE: Lost in Translation

> I met a Japanese friend last week at dinner. She found the film charming;
> she thought it ridiculed the American abroad more, because she said it
> showed how Americans see Japan, failing to see the layers of richness
> I have been to Japan as a reporter a couple of times for extended periods,
> and I tend to share this view. I know there's this view emerging that
> Coppola has ridiculed the Japanese, or is somehow racist. I tend to
> with that view.
> Salil
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