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.


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