Sunday, July 04, 2004

Lost In Translation

*SPOILER ALERT* (skip this post unless you've seen the movie)

in venerable rhino tradition the buzz-movie of 2003 has finally been experienced at home on DVD. not much to add to the universal plaudits - all of which I'd endorse, of course - other than to wonder about part two (given that this must count as the most protracted foreplay movie in cinematic history).
clearly, the 'mystery' of that final inaudibly whispered sentence - a coup de theatre if ever there was one - is no mystery at all. there was a scripted sentence there, after all, which, although the director decided not to let it be heard, was nevertheless uttered, and its substance was transparently contained in those final parting looks between Bob and Charlotte - he walking happily backwards, she smiling through upwelling tears. and yet most critics seem to have decided that, whatever was whispered, that was the end of the affair - in the Brief Encounter-like interests of propriety, perhaps - that the relationship was contained in and defined by that hermetic cultural bubble in which it was formed, and that, beyond those confines, back in the 'real' world, both characters recognise that there is no possiblility of its continuing.
some critics even spoke of that final kiss as being 'platonic'.
as if.
which is, I think, a curiously Puritan misreading of those performances - and, as neither the fabulous Bill Murray (way to go, Bill - performance of a lifetime) nor the incredibly precocious Scarlett Johanssen put a foot wrong throughout the movie in defining, with the most extraordinary delicacy and honesty, the irresistible arc of mutual recognition developing between those two characters that the movie is all about, this is doing them a bit of an injustice, really. no, I reckon those critics have been just either too uncomfortable with their own reactions to the complicated implications of that secret resolution, or too neurotically burdened by their own prejudice as to be wilfully blind to it.
I must say, after watching the way Sofia Coppolla and Bill Murray are together in that rooftop interview in the DVD extras, I find myself wondering whether the whole production wasn't basically a fantastic pretext - a prolix seduction - of which the movie itself is part analogue part billet doux. it wouldn't be the first time in cinema history that an infatuated auteur has built a movie around the object of desire, just the first time for such an age and gender reversal: a fairly radical issue to have slipped in underneath the radar over there. nice one, Ms Coppolla.

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