Film Club / Composed of Brief Unplanned Moments That Very Rarely Lead Anywhere

Lost in TranslationLost in Translation
Directed by Sofia Coppola

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

Honest question / genuine question / non-sarcastic question: why do people like this movie?

Rewatching it this week I was actually quite taken aback at how quickly it lost me. Like: you know that thing when you watch a movie and it slowly brings you onside like it’s making friends with you? There’s like a cute little character moment or something with how a certain shot makes you feel or a music cue that’s timed just right. The start of a movie is like meeting a stranger and (if the movie is good) the stranger slowly draws you in and makes you feel welcomed and establishes an understanding and then dazzles you with a magic trick or the things they say or just the way they smile…

Whatever the complete opposite of that is: that’s what Lost in Translation does.

First of all there’s that opening shot. I’m tempted to post it but that seems like it would be a bit much… It’s Scarlett Johansson’s ass in pink knickers. And I mean – really I’m sorry – but I have to ask: why?

Just to try to get to grips with the film I thought it might be a good idea to read the wikipedia page and I found this:

The film’s opening shot, which features a close shot of Charlotte lying down in translucent pink underwear, has interested various commentators. In particular, it has been compared to the portraitures of the painter John Kacere and the image of Brigitte Bardot in the opening scene of the 1963 film Contempt. Dwyer wrote that when the two shots are compared, they reveal the importance of language difference, as both films highlight the complexities involved with characters speaking multiple languages. Filippo wrote that while the image in Contempt is used to remark on sexual objectification, Coppola “doesn’t seem to be making a statement at all beyond a sort of endorsement of beauty for beauty’s sake”.

Coppola revealed in a 2013 interview that the shot is indeed based on the art of Kacere. Geoff King, a professor of film at Brunel University (who published a book on the film, under the same name in a series titled “American indies”, in 2010), contends that the shot is marked by an “obvious” appeal in its potential eroticism, and a “subtle” appeal in its artistic qualities. He used the shot as an example of the film’s obvious attractions, which are characteristic of mainstream film, and its subtle ones, which are typified by “indie” film. Etc.

Oh ok – there’s no need to google it – here’s the painting that the film is referencing:


(But is it art? etc)

Now I’m sorry if this makes me sound uncultured or whatever but when I read stuff like that it makes me want to scream.

Like I get it if a filmmaker wants to reference famous paintings in their movies or whatever (I think I saw something recently about how there’s quite a few shots in the Grand Budapest Hotel that reference some painting or the other or whatever: but here’s the thing (and this kinda reminds me of the stuff we were talking about Mother!): if the only thing that you have is the reference or the underlying meaning then: well – maybe you’re missing the point? Or in other words: please give me a reason for looking at Scarlett Johansson’s posterior other than the fact you’re making an allusion to a painting or whatever please. Otherwise – well – what’s the point you know?

Then there’s the music thing: which I know is kinda nitpicky but still – what’s with the crappy way that the first song they play kinda fades in and then fades out like a toddler is messing around with the stereo? This of course is made even worse for me by the fact that erm yeah I already know the song (It’s Girls by Death in Vegas from Scorpio Rising) and gah it just makes me… I don’t know what when I see how the film treats it. Especially when it could have been done so much better. Fade it right from the start or something you know? It’s got a slow build – use it. As opposed to just – tossing it off and mistreating it like it’s just a T-Shirt that you’ve decided not to wear. It’s just – inelegant you know?

(Am willing to admit that I might not feel this way if I wasn’t previously acquainted with the song before I saw the movie – but I was so it sucks so erm yeah).


And then yeah – there’s the bit with Bill Murray in the car driving around Tokyo which manages to irate me with two seperate things: one where they have a shot where you can see him see a billboard with his picture on it and then the very next shot is a close-up of the billboard – just to make sure that you saw it.

I mean: that’s like the cinematic equivalent of following up a sentence when they describe a billboard and then the very next sentence is – oh by the way did I say already: there’s a shot where you can see him see a billboard with his picture on it? (Yes. Thank you. Why are you telling me twice?).

And then after that there’s this thing where he rubs his eyes like he can’t believe what he’s seeing and I wish I could find a picture of it to show you – but unfortunately I can’t – but please believe me when I say it looks like the fakest thing ever. But then maybe that’s because he’s rubbing his eyes like he can’t believe what he’s seeing? Which – is this supposed to be a cartoon? Because I don’t think anyone has ever done that in real life…

But anyway – yes – this is all in the first 2 minutes and then I had to stop watching because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

So yeah: honest question / genuine question / non-sarcastic question (please someone just tell me): why do people like this movie? Because I can’t work it out. I’m stumped.

What do you think?

The Gap between Panels
Barbican Comic Forum
Twitter / The Hot-Doll Pages

OK so on the see thru pants. My take is that it’s a quick way of establishing the central point of tension in the film, which is that there’s a babe in the hotel room lying in wait for Bill Murray to come in, and Murray will have to make a choice about how far he wants to take that relationship. And while Johansson is obv a bit of a looker, the fact that the shot isn’t glossy and the pants aren’t black and frilly suggests that although there is eroticism going on here, there is also at the same time the suggestion of intimacy and vulnerability. There’s a frankness about the shot which isn’t distancing in the way a lot of erotic art might be – this is a real person who is just sleeping. But yeah ok fine she’s also kind of hot.

(I don’t think there is a way to talk about this without sounding like a crazy person.)

I watched the film again just now and for the first time picked up on the reference to the famous fountain scene in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. There are several ironic parallels being drawn there. In that film Mastroianni plays a reporter enthralled by an almost otherworldly beautiful foreign actress. Here it’s the haggard Murray who is famous, but he similarly finds a new lease of life by coming into contact with a (slightly more scruffy but) pretty girl. Fellini’s film is all about the emptiness at the heart of fashion, celebrity and wild inhibition-free parties, as is Coppola’s, although in casting Murray she ups the emphasis on the quotidian awkwardness and absurdity behind the scenes. Both films are a critique of this fashionable bourgeois lifestyle from the inside, and Coppola is v indebted to that strain of Italian 60s art-house film where drift, isolation and incomprehension are key motifs.


I’m kind of down for that tbh. I sort of get Joel’s point that the film is messy and choppy – loosely put together from scraps of footage. The improvisation and impressionistic style is intentional, and it works for me. What it does is drain a little bit of the tension between the two characters and how they will resolve their relationship, but on the other hand their connection is supposed to be ephemeral – composed of brief unplanned moments that very rarely lead anywhere. The format fits the message.

And actually the film is very good at using the setting to comment on the mindset of the characters. Murray starts off blinded by the lights at night and ends with being able to face them as the daylight breaks in and he heads to the airport. Johansson witnesses a traditional Japanese funeral and later a wedding with a mixture of longing, sympathy and incomprehension which underline her own confusion about her very early marriage.

Apparently a lot of the film is based on real experiences Coppola has had in Japan, and there are moments particularly with Johansson where Japanese culture is portrayed respectfully, and as deserving of respect. Nonetheless, a lot of Murray’s jokes feel like they are at the expense of his hosts, rather than at his own inability to understand what is going on around him. My wife is Japanese and she wasn’t laughing. It’s also generally true that it is a very skewed portrayal of Japan, although given that it is transparently a foreigner’s view of the country, perhaps that’s forgivable.

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

Re: “Apparently a lot of the film is based on real experiences Coppola has had in Japan”


Sorry – but this kinda stuff always makes me bristle. I remember back when I was kid and was in the Tate looking at this painting of like a kitchen scene or something and it said on the note to the side of the painting that the wall in the painting was the same colour as the wall of the artist’s room when they were a kid (or something similar) and I remember all I could think was: bullshit.

I’m sure there’s probably a fancy art theory name for this approach but I have no idea what it is: but basically if something isn’t in the artwork then what the hell are you talking to me about it for? Or to be more precise when someone says that a film or whatever is based on the experiences of the author I just get this blank look all over my face. And frankly I think it’s a big part of the problem of the type of narcissism our culture loves to cultivate and mollycoddle. I mean – it doesn’t make the film any more exciting or interesting to learn that it’s based on Coppola’s real experiences: because quite frankly it’s such a boring film where nothing happens apart from Bill Murray doing racist-tinged improvisations…

(I’d like to go on the record to say that I think that these days most of times when something or someone is accused of being racist it’s maybe a little overblown but well yeah Lost in Translation is… erm… pretty darn racist).

lip my stocking

I mean really? REALLY?

Like of course: if someone told me that – say – Total Recall was based on real experiences then I would be way more interested. But I don’t get the thing of someone putting their mundane boring life up on the screen (or a book or whatever) and telling me it’s “real” and therefore thinking that means it suddenly becomes an object of deep fascination. I mean – if only it were that easy.


In fact it all kinda reminds me of that bit from Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (the book not the show – natch):

‘Don’t you feel it?’ he kidded her. ‘The historicity?’

She said, ‘What is ‘historicity’?’

‘When a thing has history in it. Listen. One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn’t. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it?’ He nudged her. ‘You can’t. You can’t tell which is which. There’s no ‘mystical plasmic presence,’ no ‘aura’ around it.’

‘Gee,’ the girl said, awed. ‘Is that really true? That he had one of those on him that day?’

‘Sure. And I know which it is. You see my point. It’s all a big racket; they’re playing it on themselves. I mean, a gun goes through a famous battle, like the Meuse-Argonne, and it’s the same as if it hadn’t, unless you know. It’s in here.’ He tapped his head. ‘In the mind, not the gun.

‘I don’t believe either of those two lighters belonged to Franklin Roosevelt,’ the girl said.

Wyndam-Matson giggled. ‘That’s my point! I’d have to prove it to you with some sort of document. A paper of authenticity. And so it’s all a fake, a mass delusion. The paper proves its worth, not the object itself!


That’s how I feel about “based on the author’s experiences.” Give me a break. Do your job and write me up some fiction – you know?

Barbican Comic Forum

This film has a lot going for it. Scarlett Johansson has gone through the various phases of fame, but I think she’s pretty great. I remember seeing her first in Ghost World where she mainly sulked at the back and was still one of the better things in that movie. She certainly conjures a convincing sexual tension with Bill Murray, which the film proceeds to lean on for its duration.

Bill Murray is also slightly tarnished now, but at the time the film came out, his renaissance felt like a beloved pet coming back to life, such was his status as international treasure. This film basically sets the template for the latter half of his career as wry but grumpy old man, bringing buckets of character without having to do very much.

He had previously played a “serious” role in the film Quick Change (albeit dressed as a clown) over a decade earlier, but there was definitely a thing in the 90s where comedy actors found it hard to break through. I think when Tom Hanks won the Oscar for Philadelphia it was seen as him officially graduating from comedic roles, with everyone reassessing Big and Turner & Hooch as dramatic masterpieces. This sort of movie used to be bread and butter for Hollywood and Quick Change, Other People’s Money, the Hudsucker Proxy, Working Girl and similar films meant that actors had the space to add depth to tightly plotted roles without huge budgetary pressures or the feeling that their careers were hanging in the balance. If you wanted flabby arthouse cinema with lots of voice overs and meaningful looks you could always resort to the Artificial Eye catalogue. Now all drama seems to be trying so hard to mean something while these sort of films have become overlong Bingewatch dramas.


Joel sighs at the need for films to introduce a back story to their production and I completely agree, although now I think about it on this film club at least, that sort of detail up does represent a lot of the content. Also I guess, given it was unavoidable, Sophie Coppola would have been foolish to avoid trading on her name and status as an heir to Hollywood royalty. I think now that is an increasingly common practice (were I given the task of reinvigorating the Oscars I would remould it into the X-Factor format so you can actually understand what went into the technical awards, but it would naturally turn into lots of “Christine from Stoke has always wanted to be a pampered millionaire since was 5 years old” segments). With some productions the back story may be more important than the work itself. Joel says that it’s all fake, but its no worse than people boring on about Van Gogh cutting his ear off. All art is trying to create something from your own experiences right? But agree that because of this fairly trite fact, there’s no reason at all for giving Coppola specific credit for it.

Super Play

The last, and most important element is Japan. I have always had huge affection for some parts of Japanese culture. In the 90s Akira, Studio Ghibli and Final Fantasy were still “cult” phenomena and so liking these things felt like having the keys to an amazing secret garden. I used to read the magazine Super Play, which while ostensibly about Super Nintendo Games took the time to celebrate Japanese culture and their artist Will Overton would produce anime style covers every month. I finally went on holiday to Japan 2 years ago and I guess it wasn’t such a cult because it was kind of a parody of itself – or at least all the touristy bits were. Much like central London I guess. I certainly didn’t experience any particular culture shock but I had been living in Asia for 2 years by that point.


So when this film came out it was like some algorithm had generated a movie for me. Unfortunately the film also feels like it was directed by an algorithm. It gets a lot of credit, because I think people refuse to believe all these good elements (the music is pretty good too) just don’t add up to much. But I remember feeling like the best joke was the bit where Bill Murray didn’t understand the interpreter and so rather than being a clever metaphor for life not turning out the way it’s planned, the film is strongest when it’s just being a literal visual representation of its title. It’s like the bit in Phantom Menace when a big fish that’s chasing the Jedi is eaten by a bigger fish and then “Qui gon says “there’s always a bigger fish.” Yeah man, we get it! Except that LiT doubles down by doing the same joke again with the “rip my stockings” bit which, as Joel points out, is like some sort of bawdy 70s comedy routine. It seems weird to me with missteps like that it gets so much credit for being such a thoughtful film.

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

For some stupid reason I decided to watch Ghost in the Shell (2017) over the weekend. Mainly because of this thread. I kinda got this injoke started in my head that it was the unofficial sequel to Lost in Translation (The headcanon tagline = “Return to Tokyo”) and well seeing how there was a lot of fuss about it when it came out (check out our Book Club discussion here for more on that) plus the fact that I’m a sucker for science-fiction action movies plus (oh hell yeah) Beat Takeshi is in it – who am I to resist?This isn’t really the place to go into the merits or not of Ghost in the Shell (oh ok then: overall it was pretty forgettable – but was filled with way more interesting visual touches (glitches and shit) than I was expecting and the “I give consent” thing was a pretty interesting flourish) but the thing it did made me think is – well – lots of things about Scarlett Johansson.


Normally my opinion about actors is the pretty much the same stance that Team (“Matt Damon“) America takes: they’re all vainglorious narcissistic blowhards who are overrated and overexposed. In fact if you’ve never seen Adam Buxton’s Famous Guy then I’d recommend you go take a look at it now because it basically gets it all completely spot and delightfully replaces the word “actor” with “pretending man” which is perfect in all sorts of ways I can’t express (If only the Oscars followed suit – I feel like I’d have a lot more time for them if instead of awards for “Best Actor / Actress” they gave one out for “Best Pretending”).

But yes – with pretending people my basic stance is contempt and for me they’re often the least important part of the movie. And yeah yeah obviously this is done in reaction to a culture that basically treats them like demi-gods etc – but what are you going to do?

All of which is to say: Scarlett Johansson is actually kinda good isn’t she?

I mean – not in terms of her acting or anything like that (yawn) which you know – I’m sorry – all kinda looks the same to me? But looking across her filmography so far – she has chosen to play a lot of really bizarre and out there parts: most of them connected in a strange way with depictions of the female body in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on…

Obviously there’s Lost in Translation and that see thru pants shot – but then there’s the film before that (and when I think I first became aware of her) which was in The Man Who Wasn’t There as “Rachael “Birdy” Abundas” where she…. wait a second let me just look this up… oh yeah… here we go:

Ed makes regular visits to Rachel “Birdy” Abundas, a friend’s teenage daughter, to hear her play the piano. Tormented by loneliness, he imagines helping her start a musical career and becoming her manager. The fantasy is crushed when a music teacher tells him that Birdy has no talent. Driving back from visiting the teacher, Birdy makes a pass at Ed and attempts to perform oral sex on him, causing Ed to lose control of the car and crash.



In Michael Bay’s The Island she plays a (spoilers) clone called Jordan Two Delta (if you haven’t seen it – it’s like Never Let Me Go with more explosions). In Her she’s Super-Siri. In Luc Besson’s Lucy she takes a drug that makes her into somesort of human. We’ve all seen Under The Skin at this point yeah? And in Ghost in the Shell she mostly runs around dressed like this:


Maybe someone else can help me out with this because I don’t know what quite to call it. But it’s like in pretty everything she does – there’s this sort of disconnect (?) between herself and her body – like it’s just another form to be worn and then discarded.

I don’t know if anyone is aware of the outcry over Johansson decison to star in a film called Rub & Tug? Where the idea was for her to play “Dante “Tex” Gill, a transgender man who operated a massage parlor and prostitution ring in the 1970s and 1980s.” She dropped out of it due to reasons – but it seems like a role that would actually fit her rather well seeing how it would be yet another case of her assuming a body that’s not hers… (if that’s ok to say?). Part of me is like: maybe this is like the result of the patriarchy leaving a famous woman photographed a billion times over feeling alienated from her own body? Or maybe it’s opposite – with her feeling so empowered by her position that she’s able to remake herself in any way she deems fit? Or maybe something inbetween? Or perhaps she’s just an actor choosing roles that scratch whatever artistic itch she may happen to have at the moment?

Basically I hope she gets done with the Marvel Machine sooner rather than later: because tho it’s not like I’m a fan of all of her movies – it feels like she’s one of the very few mainstream actors out there that is committed to making all sorts of interesting choices…

The Gap between Panels
Barbican Comic Forum
Twitter / The Hot-Doll Pages

On the real experience thing – I don’t think it’s as simple as saying stuff based on personal experience is necessarily and automatically better than stuff that’s more removed from it. Some people might think that and dismiss entire genres like sci-fi, horror etc out of hand, which is obv stupid. That said, I do think Coppola has a certain responsibility when depicting a real place and should treat the culture of that place with a certain amount of respect. The reason Bill Murray’s jokes grate so much is that that doesn’t happen. It’s the difference between leaving characters as stereotypes (i.e. objects) rather than having them be real people (subjects). Lost in Translation is tricky though because the point of the film isn’t the real place but how the two main characters experience it as something alienating and “Other”, and the film is filtered through that not very sympathetic viewpoint. At least with Johansson’s character there is a recognition of that – she makes an effort. Murray on the other hand just treats almost every Japanese person he meets like an inappropriately garish clown.

Have been thinking about how many different translations are lost in the film. The first is the literal fact of not speaking the language – brought out most clearly when Murray is doing the photoshoot and the translator cannot properly convey what the photographer wants. But there’s also a failure of translation within the two marriages, where the main characters’ loneliness isn’t recognised and the conversations with the respective spouses happen at cross-purposes. The film’s climax depicts a moment of supposedly successful translation – where Murray chases down the girl (like every romcom ever) and makes his feelings known. Coppola wasn’t able to record what was said between them during the shoot, and planned to dub something in later, but then decided against it. It’s the right choice – as it pushes out the translation metaphor onto the audience who are watching, and highlights that the film itself is an unsuccessful translation of the two characters’ story and their reality. It’s a cool meta move, and fittingly launched a thousand speculations on what was actually said.

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

I wouldn’t say it’s that “saying stuff based on personal experience is necessarily and automatically better than stuff that’s more removed from it” – it’s more that I’m suspicious of the added value that “this is based on real experiences” really adds. Or rather: I think it’s a bit of a… con trick? Here’s this scene of Bill Murray acting racistly around Japan that erm is actually kinda boring? Oh wait actually – here’s someone to tell me that it was based on a real experience so now I know that what I’m watching is now actually properly interesting (even if it doesn’t seem it lol).

And yeah yeah of course this is how humans work and “based on real experiences” is just a kinda meta-story to make the story you’re watching seem more profound. Altho I guess I’m more interested in the ways that people mess around with it… The very obvious example is Fargo which opens with:this is a true story.jpg

Of course the story behind this is that it’s not a true story. Apparently (so the story goes) the Coen Brothers wanted to make a film based on a true story – but when they couldn’t find one which was interesting enough they decided to make one up (which is all kinds of beautiful no?). I wonder how different the experience of the watching the film is thinking it’s true / versus watching it thinking it’s all made up?

(Maybe I’d have more time for Lost in Translation if it opened with “The following is based upon real events” projected on to Scarlett Johansson’s posterior in that very first shot?)

Or – another favourite of mine: are those films based on a true story that have to change the things that happen – because they’re so outlandish that the audience won’t believe that it’s true. Best example of this I’ve experienced recently is Hawksaw Ridge (which already tbh stretches the feeling of reality) but apparently had to leave out most of the truth of what happened because well – it already seems so preposterous):

Mel Gibson stated there were aspects of this event that were true, but that he couldn’t include in the film because he felt people wouldn’t believe they were true: Doss stepped on a grenade to save his buddies and was hit by shrapnel, but as he was being carried away by medics he saw another soldier injured. Since Doss himself was a medic, he jumped off his stretcher and treated that soldier and told the medics to take care of other wounded soldiers. He then crawled back to safety while being shot at by enemy snipers. While lowering men down the ridge, a Japanese soldier had Doss in his sights several times, and every time he did, his gun jammed, preventing him from shooting him. This was also for fear that no one would believe it. In reality, Doss’ Bible went missing as he dragged himself to safety. Months after he was shipped home, he found it in the mail; his entire company, which once mocked him for his convictions, searched all over Hacksaw until they found it.


Private First Class Desmond T. Doss was not wounded and evacuated in a daylight assault at Hacksaw Ridge. He was wounded a couple of weeks later in the Okinawa campaign during a night attack near Shuri. As per his Medal of Honor citation, he was wounded in the legs by a grenade, but had to wait five hours before stretcher bearers could reach him, during which time he dressed his own wounds. While being carried back to safety by three stretcher bearers, they were attacked by a Japanese tank. Doss crawled off the stretcher to a more seriously wounded man and insisted the others evacuate that soldier and then return for him. While waiting for the stretcher to return, he was shot by a sniper as he was being carried by another soldier. This caused a compound fracture of his arm, for which he improvised a splint using a rifle stock. He then crawled three hundred yards to an aid station for treatment.

Now that’s a story.

Barbican Comic Forum

“What are they tuning a harp? I thought we were like a big rich rock band and supposed to have a whole bunch of extra guitars.”

This little bit of dialogue from Nirvana Unplugged is nice because of the implication that Kurt Cobain just rolled into the MTV studio and banged out one the albums of the decade in his lunch break. It’s more than nice, it’s like peak generation X “don’t be a tryhard” work ethic.


This sort of studied insouciance is a key feature of this movie. The way the camera moves just a little bit too abruptly, the soundtrack is a little too low key, the characters a bit to shrugging in their motivation, and the story just a bit too random. It’s like Sophia Coppola is saying “well me and Scarlett and Bill were just hanging around in this crazy Japanese hotel with not much to do and so I grabbed my camera and we just made this. No big deal. What’s that you say? ‘The photography is gorgeous and you wish you could find someone who looked at you the way Charlotte looks at Bob?’ Why thank you, it was nothing really.”

It’s not a criticism, it’s a good way to manage audience expectations, and marks an interesting contrast with Pixar where every frame is story boarded in 5 different ways, smothered with exquisite detail and constructed like a clockwork emotion manipulation engine. Lost in Translation is trying to give the impression of raw spontaneity, desperately signalling that if you feel something then what you are probably feeling is it’s unvarnished realness. That’s why it has to have an ageing film star as it’s main character as a way to excuse some of its more obvious bits of confection: “yes this scene seems contrived but maybe that’s just the crazy life of a rich film star.” Which is literally the entire plot of Coppola’s 2010 film Somewhere.


Indeed the theme of jaded rich people comes through much more strongly than the culture shock it claims. Joel was joking about how this film is the prequel to Ghost in the Shell, but what if it’s the sequel to Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day. Murray basically plays a haggard Peter Venkman in this (and every subsequent) movie. He’s saved the world, he’s done the TV circuit and he’s burnt out. There was no happy ending after Vigo the Carpathian was killed, instead life got boring. That’s Sigourney Weaver on the end of the phone nagging him about carpet samples and neglecting his children. But he’s still funny and charming, so what happened? Maybe that’s why all the middle aged men who reviewed this film liked it so much. Am I being sarcastic? I don’t even know any more.

Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
Brain Teeth

Did anyone actually watch Somewhere? Or indeed any other Sofia Coppola film? I mean – i do have fond memories of The Virgin Suicides but then I kinda saw it back when I was still a kid and there’s a part of me that feels like if I watch it now it’d be comparable to rewatching America Beauty or something… You know: at the time it kinda seems like the most impossibly deep and most meaningful thing you’ve seen in your entire life and then when you see it for the second time it’s basically:


(Altho I’ve gotta admit that it’s actually pretty cool when a film contains it’s best metaphor for the experience of watching it).

Speaking of things which seem deep but aren’t I’ve gotta admit that I take issue what Ilia referred to as the “cool meta move” of the movie (sorry Ilia). Basically: that final whispering scene where Bill says the thing to Scarlett but (extremely stoner voice) oh wow man – you actually can’t hear what he says to her? That is soooo like stuff and whatever?

whispering indistinct

I’m actually struggling to put this into words because it’s tricky to actually think of a way to sum up all of the ways that this just feels so bogus and – what’s the word? – “intellectual-light?” “false profundity?” “just actually kinda… dumb?” I mean: it kinda reminds me of the spinning top moment at the end of Inception – although in that case it was mostly the case of the audience being dumber than the movie. The point isn’t that you’re supposed to work out if the top falls down or not – the point is Leo doesn’t bother to look and / it cuts before you find out.

This Lost in Translation thing is more kinda how The Blob (1958) ended:


It kinda feels like the cinematic version of a shrug.emoji.

I mean yeah ok – maybe it’s because (like I said above) I basically checked out of the movie in the first 5 minutes and I’m willing to concede that maybe if the characters grabbed me more then maybe I’d be more emotionally invested or whatever (Head on heart: I think Ghostbusters is one of the most overrated movies of all time so I guess maybe I’m not in target audience?). I guess this is why I never wanted to watch any other Sofia Coppola films after this… I mean: if the trend continues then I’m guessing now she’s struck the secret formula all her films are just characters enigmatically looking at each other and saying things that the audience can’t hear and all the critics are saying omg it’s the deepest thing of all time.

It’s like a dumb person’s idea of what something smart would look like. It’s all gesture – no meaning. And damn it – I still haven’t managed to encapsulate why I loath it so much have I? Oh well.

My best guess? He’s saying: “this movie sucks.”


Just a side note, I rewatched Virgin Suicides recently, and it’s a great watch still. She did a great job with the source material, so there’s still a lot of truth and heartbreak there.

The Gap between Panels
Barbican Comic Forum
Twitter / The Hot-Doll Pages

all her films are just characters enigmatically looking at each other and saying things that the audience can’t hear and all the critics are saying omg it’s the deepest thing of all time.

This did make me laugh because there are art house directors who have built entire careers out of doing just that, and actually I think that with the La Dolce Vita reference Coppola is signposting her own debt to that strain of cinema. I love Antonioni and think this sort of stuff is cool in an annoying chin-stroke emoji way but I get why the presentation of drift and miscommunication as the point of a piece of entertainment can wind people up the wrong way. It’s a push at the boundaries of narrative cinema, where things start to lose their shape and structure, and that can feel like a cop-out – as if creators just not trying hard enough to stamp some actual meaning onto their project.

Ultimately, you either respond to this sort of stuff or you don’t. I quite like these kinds of enigmatic drifting films where you have to shore up fragments amidst the ruins, where the drift is part of the point itself. I mean, alienation and ennui are almost the opposite of what you need as ingredients for an engaging narrative. I think that the film’s title suggests some thought about how to portray several different mistranslations, and how that adds up to an overwhelming gulf between people that is only ever imperfectly bridged. I think there is some meaning stamped onto the project. It’s enough meaning for me, but I can understand why it may not be enough for others.

This post was created by our Film Club email list.
If you’d like to join the conversation send an email marked “Film Club” to here.