Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation, a great movie overall, but the movie does take some “shots” at Japanese culture, even if that was unintended by the director.

As most Hollywood movies do, they over exaggerate any country’s dominant culture outside of North America. While I do understand it is all part of entertainment, and that dull movies never entertain anyone, but I did some some disturbing representations of the Japanese culture. A huge contrast between the American and Japanese culture is evident right from the beginning of the movie, when Bob Harris enters into the hotel for the first time. The Japanese people seem to be portrayed too “nice” but in a bad way. I understand that Bob Harris is a big time actor, but the movie made it seem as if the Japanese people have just seen God walk past them. One funny scene was when Bob was walking through a hallway in the hotel, the only other American, or “white” family that was there too, were all wearing cowboy hats to represent that they are American. Which do not think Americans actually do, I have seen maybe just the father, or both parents wearing the hats, but not everyone in the family. Another example is the Japanese talk show that Bob is invited to. Now I do know that these Japanese talk show hosts are over the top in Japanese talk shows, so the over the top show was not surprising to me. But what I did not like was that for the entire show you can clearly tell that Bob hated this place and their over the top culture. Another jab at Japanese culture was when Charlotte asked Bob why all the Japanese mix all their I’s with R’s, and Bob just said that they do that for fun, as a joke, when it is clearly an accent issue. Another issue, which was also brought up in the class discussion was the fact that all the Japanese roles in the film, were of people serving the western people, such as the prostitute, and the talk show host, and everyone in general, was just amazed by Bob and their sole purpose was to please him.

One funny scene was when the director, Sofia, actually took a jab at Western culture, when Bob was on the elliptical, and he asked for help, but no one showed up, since in Western culture everyone always assumes that if they ask for help they will always get it.

Overall, it was very clear the it was a Western perspective on Japanese culture and not the other way around.

On another note while watching this movie, I could not help but notice so many similarities with the film, The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Both films, show a western perspective on Japanese culture, and show how a Westerner gets along in this foreign Japanese world. In both movies, I noticed that the flow of the movie is almost similar. Its very slow, and really quiet (not on the same level as The Lunchbox). None of the scenes are really lost, and in a lot of scenes, both of the main protagonists are trying to discover something, which was a big similarity. Both Tom and Bill Murray in these films come into Japan and immediately hate the culture, which is understandable since it is so different from American culture, so they go through a culture shock. However, by the end of the movie, both of them do not want to leave. They fall in love with the place, perhaps because they fall in love with someone in that country, but regardless, they both do not want to go back by the end of the movie. They both find some kind of “peace” in Japan that they could not find in America. For example, Bob tells Charlotte that he actually does not want to go back, when in the beginning he was begging his agent to allow them to come back home. I realized that this just isn’t common between just these two movies, but also another famous movie, Sayonara with Marlon Brando, where the same exact thing happens in that movie, Marlon falls in love and never wants to leave Japan. I think it is because, while in Japan, some things are over the top, such as their game shows, there is a sense of peace, and this “spiritual” feeling that you get when you visit Japan, that is non-existent in North America. Even the soundtrack in Lost in Translation is very beautiful, slow paced, and just puts you in a relaxing mood. A perfect example is when Charlotte is walking through Japan on her own and is visiting the natural sites in Japan such as the temples and their forests, I felt that this was a very relaxing and spiritual place, which you can easily fall in love with. Another example I could remember is when Bob is talking to his wife while in the Jacuzzi, and he says that he wants a healthier life style, and eat healthier (eating Japanese food). So you can clearly tell that he has found some level of peace here, and it makes him healthier just being in that country, which is exactly what happens in the Last Samurai, and Sayonara, all of the main protagonists just feel healthier (mentally) while in Japan. So there is a similar feeling that most Hollywood films portray about Japan, that while it is hard to understand at first, once you live there for a while, you just fall in love with the place.


Blog 5 Assignment – Act of Killing

Director, Joshua Oppenheimer, made a good choice by choosing to direct Act of Killing in an observational style. The style fit well with the overall topic of discussion, the killings of communists in Indonesia. This tragic event has been relatively unknown to the rest of the world, which is why it was a good decision by Joshua to present his findings in an “unbiased” way. Joshua let a variety of people from both sides, communists (ethnic Chinese), and capitalists (Indonesian), talk about their stories and feelings towards the murders that happened. This style allowed people watching this documentary to form their own conclusions about this dark event that occurred, utilizing the documentary as a tool for activism.

This article, states how most documentaries about murders, only interview the murderers, which is why most of them are interviewed in prison, or their voice or face is hidden. In this documentary, both the people related to the victims, and the killers are interviewed, with their voice or face not being hidden. That explains the long list of credits given to locals at the end of the film with the name “anonymous”. Making the documentary, feel more authentic, where nothing is hidden, and all the facts are presented in an unbiased way.

The other accompanying article, states that this “documentary is about the real effects of living a fiction”. This quote perfectly describes what viewers took away from this documentary, that these former murderers are living in a fantasy, along with the rest of the country. An example of this is when the gangsters are on a live talk show and the host asks Anwar if he feared the revenge of the victims’ relatives and Anwar responds, “They cant. When they raise their heads, we wipe them out!”, and the entire audience bursts into cheers, as if the killing of thousands of innocent people is something to cheer about. The “gangsters” are lost in this fantasy world, believing that what they did was right. They even wanted to show their killings in very elaborate and over the top “Hollywood” ways. Joshua does the smart thing and allows them to do so by having costumes, “cheesy” movie lines, and gangster movie inspired scenes. I believe Joshua allowed them to do this, in order to show viewers that to these gangsters, their murders were just like the ones in the gangster movies they grew up watching, and how lost they are in this fantasy world they created for themselves. An interesting event occurs during one of these re-enactment scenes. As Anwar is re-enacting one of his killings, where he is in a dark room interrogating a suspected communist, he starts to realize how wrong all of this was, he feels so guilty that they have to stop the entire scene because he could not bear to finish it. Joshua most likely did not predict that this would happen, but he took the chance regardless and experimented with this, allowing things to unfold on their own, which resulted in that powerful scene. He stated that this decision was inspired by Hamlet, which had a play inside of a play, just like this documentary. The play inside of a play style was beautiful aesthetically (Herman dressed up as a woman), but also made the stories more authentic, since the killers acted out their own murders, versus someone just describing it. The gangsters experienced “reality itself as a fiction”, which is a style I have never seen in a documentary. Showing how one’s fantasy becomes their reality.

Joshua does not express his own opinions until the very last scene, and he does it very smartly. At the very end Joshua finally speaks and tells Anwar how his killings have caused a lot of people and their families to suffer and as a result, Anwar starts to break down. Joshua filmed this entire moment all in one take, with not cuts or editing, making the emotions of that scene very authentic to viewers. He did the same thing when Anwar visited the place where he used to do his killings and placed the dead bodies in bags, and he started to cry because of how guilty that area made him feel.

As Joshua stated, “I want to immerse you in a world so that it becomes a nightmare… a kind of fever dream”, which he certainly did do, thanks to his unique yet very entertaining directing style for this documentary.

The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box, a great love story tale that presented the story in a very unique yet entertaining way, through notes exchanged by two strangers.

In regards to the topic of orientalism in film, this movie felt a lot more authentic compared to the movie seen in the previous week, Lost in Translation. In Lost in Translation, you could clearly tell that the Japanese people were not accurate portrayed in the film, as Hollywood usually does, they show the extreme, exaggerated version of cultures that are not North American. This film however, felt a lot more authentic, and so did their portrayal of the Indian culture. Granted, this movie was created in India, by an Indian director, and Lost in Translation was created by an American Director.

Many of the real cultural issues that are present in India today are apparent in this film. One issue shown is the problems occur in arranged marriage. Ila, is clearly disconnected from her husband, and this seems apparent because they were most likely marriage by arrangement, which is how most marriages are conducted in India. It could also just be general “boredom” that typically happens half way through in marriages, but in this context, the disconnection seems very extreme. The husband would barely talk to his wife, even when Ila made efforts to re-kindle the relationship (example is the scene where Ila puts on a dress that she wore during her honey moon, in order to spark something in her husband, and he just blatantly ignores her).

Another issue is that even though the marriage is clearly failing, Ila does not want a divorce, which is another common issue in India. Most females from a very young age, are told how “bad” and cruel divorcing your husband is, and how her main duty or role, is to serve the husband (make him lunch, make sure he is ok, etc.). This is clearly evident in this movie, as Ila does not want a divorce, because really, due to the culture of the country, she cant. As this article states, India’s law system obviously allows couples to divorce, but its their religion, Hinduism, that frowns upon it, which is why most woman in India are pretty much stuck in bad marriages with no way out.

On another note, this movie displayed this love story in a very innovative yet entertaining way. They exchanged notes

without even knowing the other person, and actually probably fell semi-in-love. What this reminded me of was the North American culture today, of how in most relationships today, couples usually just text and have very little personal, face to face interaction, especially with younger couples. I do not know if that was the directors intent, to show how different yet similar the cultures are between India and North America, but I found this connection to be very interesting.

In terms of this movie, a Hindi film, compared to the style of an American made movie, there are apparent differences. This movie was very slow and “quiet” which is not a bad thing. A common thing in Indian films is that they really move the plot and movie very slowly, and never rush any scenes or story lines, they let the viewer really “digest” the plot before moving on. This is very similar to the old Hollywood films from the 50s, 40s, 30s, and 20s, where the story moved slowly. However, in today’s times, Hollywood movies are very past paced, and “flashy”, which is apparent in Lost in Translation, where the movie is more over the top and clearly more fast paced than this Indian movie.