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« Follow Up: Mapping the Cultureverse | Main | Lost Performance Forms »

October 16, 2003

Moviegoing and Reading Journal: "Laurel Canyon"; "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius"; "Lost in Translation"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

Forgive the light blogging from my side of the continent. I've come down with a rotten cold; my head is full of nothing that shouldn't wind up in a Kleenex; and my energy is doing anything but rising to the occasion. Still, a few thoughts and reactions are semi-visible through the fog ...

* Laurel Canyon -- File this movie under "shoulda been a comedy." Did you catch it? Well-acted, some talent and moodiness, but unstoppable self-seriousness too, and of an especially unamusing sort. (This was true as well of the writer-director Lisa Chodolenko's first movie, "High Art." She's one somber gal.) A goody-two-shoes young couple moves in with the boyfriend's mom, who's a pothead record producer with a pad in Laurel Canyon. Slowly (and I do mean slowly), the over-achieving youngsters start to come unraveled ... It's a puzzling watch: why is everything being treated with such Bergmanesque solemnity? Almost no one in the film seems to experience so much as a stray untroubled moment. The overemphasis on heavy emotional weather left me puzzled at times about how to read the film's action. Plot spoiler here: what the hell happened in the swimming pool anyway? There's splashing and smooching; there's a cut; there are shots of puffy, troubled-looking faces ... So you assume they've gone for it, they all had sex. Then, ten or fifteen minutes later, there's an indication they never did go through with the sex -- wha'? Typical of the movie: people getting upset about things they apparently didn't do. (I've known a couple such people and am glad I don't know them anymore.) Coming sexually and romantically unravelled in LA isn't bad subject matter for a movie. The Wife pointed out that if Alan Rudolph had directed the movie it'd at least have been absurd; if Paul Mazursky had directed it, it probably would have been funny.

* The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius -- Have you read the Stoics? I think I like 'em, though I've only read Epictetus and now Marcus Aurelius. How to keep calm and serene (or at least how to maintain more rather than less balance) in the face of life's vicissitudes -- that's the subject of Stoicism, which isn't quite the "suck it up, kid" philosophy you expect it to be, although there is some of that too, god knows. (Lots of admonitions to remember that life is short and YOU'RE GONNA DIE.) But its basic vision -- the background convictions that the Stoic advice is set against -- is expansive and mystical. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are forever yanking you out of your self-centered view of things. Now you're seeing things from millions of miles away; now you've penetrated into the very nature of matter. So when you find your way back to your own point of view, life looks different; things seem set in a better perspective. And that's the point: to understand that none of this will matter, that life is but a wink of light in the darkness, that the classy thing to do is to live every day as though it were your last ... Helpful, sensible stuff, at least IMHO. Here are a couple of sentences about Stoicism from Bryan Magee:

God is not outside the world and separate from it, he is all-pervadingly in the world -- he is, as it were, the mind of the world, the self-awareness of the world. Because we are at one with Nature, and because there is no higher realm, there can be no question of our going anywhere 'else' when we die -- there is nowhere else to go. We dissolve back into nature ... We cannot change Nature, nor should we desire to. Therefore our attitude in the face of our own mortality, or what may seem to us personal tragedy, should be one of unruffled acceptance. Insofar as our emotions rebel against this, our emotions are in the wrong. The Stoics believed that emotions are judgements, and therefore cognitive: they are forms of knowledge, whether true or false.

If Lisa Chodolenko had had a few sessions with Marcus Aurelius before making "Laurel Canyon," perhaps she'd have found it in herself to let go of her determination to be so damn meaningful and tragic.

* Lost in Translation -- Curious to hear how you reacted to Sofia Coppola's movie, which did very little for me. It seemed sensitive and talented, and I certainly didn't sit there thinking that anyone who enjoys it must be nuts; there's clearly lots there to enjoy. But for some reason I never developed any desire to see where the movie was headed. Just between you and me, I had a few naughty moments when I found myself comparing the movie to first novels from trust-fund graduates of Columbia's writing-school program -- people who write because, well, they owe it to themselves to be artists. (Interesting to note that movie history has gotten to the point where some youngsters are now making sensitive literary movies instead of writing sensitive literary novels.) But that's mean and unfair, and I'm much more curious to find out what people who enjoyed the movie got out of it. As for me, 30 minutes in I whispered to The Wife, "Do you see any reason to continue sitting here?" She shook her head and we were out of there in a jiffy. Always far more insightful than I, The Wife offered this entertaining theory: that what the movie is really about is how, for Sofia, nothing can compare to life with Daddy. In this scheme, Scarlett Johansson is Sofia, her husband is Sofia's husband Spike Jonze, the loud blonde he's flirting with is Cameron Diaz, and Bill Murray is Francis Coppola. So of course Scarlett can't make it with Bill. It's not just the big age difference; it's that he's Daddy. My own observation: interesting, isn't it, the way the bond Bill and Scarlett share is that they see through all the showbiz? He burned out on it long ago (one might suspect that this is true of Francis, given the flabbiness of almost all the movies he's made in the last few decades); she's a jaded young sophisticate, a philosophy major from Yale who'd never consider buying into that kind of trashy, squaresville baloney in the first place. Me? Generally speaking, I'm not much interested in movies that want to be "more real" than a mere movie -- I like mere movies. (And I even found Sofia's first movie "The Virgin Suicides" a little more interesting, if in a a-movie-can-be-a-slow-motion-and-arty-rock-video way.) But better people than I have loved "Lost in Translation" -- Robert Holzbach in a comment on this blog and OGIC over at About Last Night (here), for example, as well as innumerable reviewers. Eager to hear from a few of the movie's fans.

Hey, a general thing I've noticed recently? As I get older, I seem to be developing a taste for shorter works of art and entertainment. Movie shorts didn't used to interest me much; now they do. Poetry -- and short pieces of writing generally -- interest me more than longer ones. I wonder if this shift in tastes is age and biochemistry-related. As a youngster I was more prone to want to lose myself in an artwork, while these days I generally prefer to have the experience over in one sitting. I know this isn't because I'm losing interest in the arts, and it certainly isn't a function of impatience. Upbeat diagnosis: I'm cannier, smarter and more sensitive than I was as a young dolt. I finally understand that I can enjoy life one spoonful at a time. Downbeat diagnosis: I'm running out of gas.

Have you noticed your art tastes and preferences changing as you've, ahem, aged?



UPDATE: George Hunka muscles his way to the front of the anti-"Lost in Translation" line, here.

posted by Michael at October 16, 2003


Gee, next time tip us off at the beginning of your discussion that you're really only talking about the first thirty minutes of a movie.

As for not being much interested in movies that want to be "more real" than a mere movie, I'm not interested in those either. But I am interested in movies that _are_ more real than mere movies. See the difference?

Posted by: Mike Kelly on October 16, 2003 11:27 PM

Not sure that I do, but eager to hear more explanation.

So, did you enjoy "Lost in Translation"?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2003 12:18 AM


I just saw my team (Boston) get cruelly hacked down, so forgive me if it seems the following comes from the keyboard of an emotionally damanged owner.

I've seen "Lost in Translation" a second time since last I wrote, and I have amended my opinion. While I still give the movie four stars, I no longer think it's indicative of a major new talent in the firmament. This film is for Sophia, I now think, more of a right idea, right time, right place phenomenon. In particular, the chances of having such a unique idea for a mood movie with a point and then miraculously casting Murray in it, are slim.

But, why did I like it?

Once you get past the scotch bars and starlets, this film reeks of mystery. Through the body language of the principals and the foreign setting I was struck with a kind of wonder in that first 30 minutes. It left me wanting to know more. And that's where we parted, I guess. Here’s my main points for it:

1) Acting – Bill Murray is restrained and purposefully tired as Bob. Bob can be funny, but he gives the impression that he’s tired of being funny. He has the unique ability to show a kind of maturity so deep that it goes past seriousness and comes full circle back to childishness. Even though he's playful, the audience somehow knows very early on that he and Charlotte are not going to sleep together. I told a friend of mine, "That was the most spectacular and thoughtful show of not screwing someone since American Beauty." And it's not because it's a non-sexual relationship. It's *very* sexual, they just don't have sex! As Andy Warhol said, "celibacy is highly erotic". No one would call this an erotic film. But, it is clearly there. The erotic/emotional attraction between them is like Hamlet's Fortinus in the background, a distinct figure that comes closer and closer until it forces a change on the stage -- in this case a stunning ending scene in terms of emotional impact (and one that I did not know that Murray could pull off).

2) Music – Ok, I'm 31, and I *love* dreampop or “shoegazer” music. My Bloody Valentine was my favorite in college, so to hear their song used to such effect in this film left me teary eyed. (Kevin Shields, the *legendary* composer of this band was pulled out of a 8 year AWOL period just for this film) These pieces feel like dislocation and transcience to me. Go to to sample the songs again.

3) Visuals – Japan. To use the foreign-ness of place to emphaisize the solitude of the two principals worked well. This is a film that uses the alien cityscapes, the numbing spaces of the Tokyo Hyatt, and to create a unique sense of being jostled out of your normal awareness into something ... else.

4) It's a poem film. It expresses something felt that you never thought you would see/hear/read expressed by someone else. It's the opposite of the epic, and thus, the opposite of her father's "Godfather" films. Whereas, they are a broad sweep of family, power, society etc, "Lost" is exploratory microscopy on a particular, fleeting inner experience of two people. "Virgin Suicides" from what I gather, captures a mood well but doesn't do anything with it, whereas this film has a point to it's dreaminess.

5) Reality -- I'm interested in what you mean by more "real" not necessarily being better. I just saw "Kill Bill" and had a good time for what it was. The fake drama, the over the top dialogue, the costumes -- these things can be fun.

"Translation" feels more real to me in this sense: it slows down and creates a space for me, drawing me in, and allowing me to invest something of myself in it. Because the characters are more my sized (and interest me or have some mystery to explore), I feel like I can open myself more to their world. So, I guess by being more "real", I'm able to invest in it emotionally more, thus I'm able to get a heightened sense of this other reality. The reality helps me enter the fantasy.

With a Tarantino movie, I stay a passive, popcorn chomping viewer. An entertained one, certainly! But Tarantino is making a movie *at* me, whereas the best of Kieslowski or this film feels like it's being projected *to* me. There's a human connection that I don't get when someone's trying to entertain me.

I'm still reeling.


Posted by: Robert Holzbach on October 17, 2003 1:44 AM

I think Lost in Translation is absolutely brilliant filmmaking. No, it's not about Daddy.

This film is every bit as good as anything Francis Ford Coppola has done (with the exception of Apocalypse Now Redux), and a good deal less conventional.

Right place, right time, right actors, right filmmaker -- and lots of gloriously ambiguous Pinter pauses. Sofia deserves an Oscar for that minimalist script, but I doubt she'll get it.

BTW, the film only looks aimless at first; Bill Murray's karaoke scene snaps everything into focus. If you didn't make it that far, you can't understand what the film is really doing.

Absolutely amazing work from all concerned. I'll probably write more about it in a few days.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 17, 2003 9:50 AM

Robert -- Baseball? That's the game with bats and mitts, right?

Thanks for laying out what you enjoyed about the movie. I can certainly see experiencing it that way, though I don't think it would have occurred to me to compare it to Kieslowski, who strikes me as so Euro-intellectual-modernist. Eager to hear how you react to "Virgin Suicides," should you ever get around to watching it -- it's another poetic mood piece, though in a very different style. By the way, "dreampop"? What's that?

Pop music note: there comes a time in your life (in my case, around the mid-30s) when you learn that a pop star has died of an overdose -- and you've never heard of him in the first place. An entire, zeitgeist-y pop-music career (and life) has come and gone, and you had no clue. That's when it really comes home that you've lost your grip on the happening thing. Nothing to do at that point but let others take it away.

Tim -- Wow, you did enjoy the movie -- to say the least! I just can't pretend that it did anything for me. There it was, and there I was, and there was no indication that any kind of connection between me and what was happening on screen was likely to take place. One of those funny occasions when you notice that lots of people are getting something out of an experience that's meaning precisely nothing to you. ("Star Wars" comes to mind, unlikely as the comparison may seem.)Nothing to do in such a case but try to puzzle it out a bit. Looking forward to your posting about the movie, though.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2003 11:52 AM

I didn't like the first Star Wars very much, either. I thought that it was anticlimactic, that the impersonal X-wing dogfight at the end wasn't nearly as much fun as the hide-and-seek escape that preceded it, and that the movie would have been better if Obi-Wan could have blown up the Death Star from the inside. (I really liked Obi-Wan, and still do.)

BTW, I was all of nine when I came up with these observations -- which proves that I've been a pretentious little bastard for a very long time.

None of which has anything to do with Lost in Translation, of course.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 17, 2003 12:25 PM

My wife and I saw the movie together, and both thought it the best thing we've seen in a long time. I'm strangely reminded of "Tender Mercies" with Robert Duvall, another achingly slow-paced character study. With both movies you have to come to a stop and just let them very slowly wash over you -- it's the opposite experience as with almost any conventional Hollywood movie.

Murray's acting deserves an award, the photography is beautiful, and the sexual tension is an underlying force -- and it was so wonderful to it allowed to continue. I've also spent a lot of time in Tokyo, much of it with Japanese photographers and/or writer collegues, exploring some strange places, and if anything, Coppola only caught a fraction of how weird it can be.

In any case, this is one of the few movies both my wife and I want to see again on the big screen.

Posted by: Rashomon on October 17, 2003 12:37 PM

Have you noticed your art tastes and preferences changing as you've, ahem, aged?

I have, but I doubt it has anything to do with age per se; I gather its more experience than anything else. That the stories, movies or songs may still be new in one sense, bit that the emotions they want to express or the things they want to tell have become familiar. And maybe even a bit too familiar.

The major change for me has been I've come to prefer short stories over novels, non-fiction over fiction, documentaries over movies.

Lost in translation isn't out here yet. But I'm more looking forward to the new Kaurismäki.

Posted by: ijsbrand on October 17, 2003 12:39 PM


Hey, don't get on my case about baseball. I've watched 3 games in my whole life, and all 3 were in the last week. The Red Sox have a unique way of losing in which I found a perverse satisfaction. Still, that was the beginning and the end of my interest in sports.

I hear you on the pop thing. My excitement over this music is a vestige of when I actually *was* young, studying in London, and had a friend there named Damien as my personal music scene tour guide. Dreampop is also called shoegazer music, a mocking term referring to the tendency of these bands to spend their stage time looking down at their shoes. My college radio station played "My Bloody Valentine", the kings of dreampop, every day (back in 1991). You can listen to them on Amazon if you want a taste.

Similarities of "Translation" to Kieslowski:
1) Subtlety
2) Human scale
3) Exceptional use of music (thinking of "Blue" and "Double Life of Veronique")
4) Sparse dialogue
5) Some Pinter like "spaces" (thanks Tim!)
6) Actor-Director movies, not a writer's movie
7) Concerned with inner crisis instead of external problems
8) Focused number of characters, one or two leads maximum, almost no supporting actors

That's all I can think of for now. Are any Kiewslowski fans out there? He's my favorite director. I even loved the posthumous "Heaven" more than I believed would be possible (and I own the whole "Decalogue", scary!).


Posted by: Robert Holzbach on October 17, 2003 1:02 PM

I didn't hate the movie, and I pretty much like Bill Murray in anything, but I ultimately felt like it was less than met the eye, so to speak. The very obvious decision by both of the potential adulterers to not have sex was just a bit too adult for me. Perhaps it speaks to my shallowness, I can't recall where a decision not to have sex with somebody was ever exactly a turning point in my life. I mean, the ones that count are the ones where you do have sex, where it's worth whatever you're going to get along with the sex. sex...probably no big deal a week afterwards. But that's just me.

The other part of the movie that did amuse/outrage me was the heroine's discussion of her life plans. She just sort of intends to be an artist, despite the fact that she has no clue and no hustle. The sense of entitlement was pretty intense--obviously her parents paid for her expensive liberal education, her husband is paying for her expensive world tour, she doesn't work, but that artistic career is just a matter of time. (This could have been played for laughs, I suppose, but I didn't get the feeling that the movie was intending criticism of the character.) I couldn't help but flash to a picture of Michelangelo at the same age, poor, sweaty, covered in marble dust, answering letters from home begging for money. I think he replies to one of them: "I'll get you the money if I have to sell myself into slavery. I have no light here and no news, so goodbye."

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 17, 2003 1:29 PM

Wait a minute, we're all insane here. We're commenting on "Lost in Translation" and we have nothing to say about "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius"?

I think I was a bit put off of "The Meditations" by two things: one, it didn't strike me as sufficiently mysical, and two, I had read some Roman history and Marcus didn't strike me as having been such an effective emperor (childishly, I like people to deliver on philosophy in the real world. Hey, I said it was childish.) Going back to objection #1, you seem to find it more mystical than I did. Would you care to explain that?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 17, 2003 1:38 PM

Maybe I just admired the way Richard Harris portrayed Marcus Aurelius in "Gladiator." (I do have the casting right, don't I?)

Hey, didn't anyone else see "Laurel Canyon"? Reactions, por favor.

I've been doing a little unofficial poll-ing around the office. And while the people who loved "Lost in Translation" certainly outnumber those who didn't get much from it, there is a small underground of those who don't fully understand the fuss. My attitude when it comes to these movies that strike a chord (but not for me): shut up, try to figure out what people got out of it, and learn a bit.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2003 2:50 PM

"Lost in Translation" -- I think the comparisons of characters to Coppola's family members are just about right. (Certainly, the ditzy anorexic blonde starlet is Cameron Diaz, all the way to having a Cuban father.) I hadn't thought of Murray as the burnt-out Francis Ford Coppola, but it makes a lot of sense.

One thing that I wrote about at length in my review in The American Conservative, but nobody else seems to talk about, is just how satirically savage the movie is toward the poor Japanese. It reminded me of the travel writings of Evelyn Waugh and Paul Theroux, where, for comic effect, the author repeatedly fails to figure out why those inscrutable indigenes do the inexplicable things they do.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on October 17, 2003 3:21 PM


Charlotte is a little less than meets the eye, I'll buy that. For being a Yale philosophy major, she doesn't offer us much in the way of conversation, which is too bad.

But, hell, if Charlotte's troubles bugged you, then Mr. $2 Million Smackers for endorsing a Scotch Ad's moaning must have driven you insane!

I just *knew* both of you would key in to the whole whining child of privilege aspect. Sigh. Listen, I have as little patience as anyone for someone with her kind of opportunities bemoning fate. But, as Murrey says in the film, I think she will figure it out, and "get a life" so to speak. The Clue and the Hustle will either come, or she'll abandon the artist idea. But this isn't a move about the future or the past; it's about now.

This a film about a fleeting, transisient moment in these two people's lives. We're not given any reason to think that they'll be making a career of angst. Or even a year of it. NONE of our problems stand up to my grandfathers, let alone Michelangelos. That doesn't mean that the lost feeling of the characters any less human.

Charles Simic said that the magic of poetry was the ability to read a 1000AD Haiku by a Chinese scholar, connect to it, and be moved. I think the brief life stage being described here could be relevant to someone encountering it in 3000AD. That's why I think this is a poem-film.

You can ruin a lot of art for yourself dwelling on the privileges of the artist and characters. You never had a month where you felt like Charlotte? It's not so much an indulgent feeling as a desire to escape from the lethargy and start defining yourself. It's the moment right before the journey, so to speak.

As for the no sex, I guess I've just had the opposite experiences. I didn't find it too adult here. I found it human, and dignified, especially given the culture we're in.


Posted by: Robert Holzbach on October 17, 2003 3:58 PM

Poem - don't those have words? Rhythm?

I do not understand why you people are confused about the lack of sex. At that age, I never actually had sex with the Bill Murray-aged men who were going through a mid-life crises and I'm damn glad I didn't. Ick. (Widowers, now there's another kettle of fish.)

Posted by: j.c. on October 17, 2003 4:52 PM

Details, JC, details! Or somewhat less oblique hints, at least.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2003 5:08 PM

Robert -- Hey, you won't catch me dissing trust funds (my p-o-v is that we should all have trust funds), or navel-gazing films either. (I've got my own faves.) What interest me is why some poetic navel-gazing movies work for no one, and why some work for some people. Which blockbusters a person enjoys is one thing, but which arty/poetic movies a person loves is another, and generally much more interesting, don't you think?

Hmm, which raises the possibility of another movie list: favorite navel-gazers... I'm workin' on it.

Rashomon -- "Tender Mercies" is a good comparison, I think. I confess I didn't sit through that one either, alas. Some failing of mine, I'm sure.

Steve -- I thought your point in your American Conservative review about the ethnic humor was excellent. Funny how people aren't willing to discuss such things, except negatively. Yet it's fun as well to sit in an audience and register with how much relief people enjoy ethnic humor. Which reminds me of another thing: the famous "pre-Code" Hollywood movies. They're known and loved because they're so uninhibited. What isn't often said out loud, though, is that it isn't just sex they're uninhibited about. They're full of ethnic/racial stereotypes, insults and jokes, most of them very good-humored (or so it seems to me). The casualness about ethnic stuff seems to go hand in hand with the casual earthiness about sex. Ethnic humor can obviously be awful and insulting, but it can also be very funny and companionable, as well as (probably) a handy escape valve for tensions; I'm hoping to see it make a comeback.

No one's seen "Laurel Canyon"? No one cares about Marcus Aurelius?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 17, 2003 5:34 PM

Michael, without meaning anything more than what I am about to say, please relfect that, in general, it has been my experience in about 12 discussions of this film that, well, wives don't like it.

But a man who heeds his wife can expect much tranquility in his life.

Posted by: Vanderleun on October 17, 2003 6:06 PM


My comment about not being much interested in movies that want to be more real than mere movies but liking ones that _are_ more real than mere movies was an attempt, failed no doubt, to be snide about movies that merely pretend to be more real, more adult than the average movie (James Bowman writes interestingly on this; see especially his piece in the current issue of the American Spectator). But movies that are in fact more real and more adult than mere movies, movies like Nanni Moretti's The Son's Room, those are what keep me going to the theater (or to Blockbuster).

Did I enjoy Lost in Translation? Yeah, though I was somewhat disappointed given all the praise I'd heard. I don't think I have much to add to the perceptive comments made here. Just a couple of things that, I think, no one here has commented on: First, I liked very much the way the relationship between Bob (Bill Murray) and his wife was portrayed. Initially it seems as if we are getting only a one-sided view of the wife--she seems absurdly obsessed with their home renovations, and even a bit shrewish--but when we hear the two of them talk to one another over the phone we hear both of their weariness, their frustration with each other but also with themselves, we hear their commitment to their marriage, maybe mainly for the kids' sake, but also because there's still some residue of love, yet they're tired, they have no idea how to be excited by one another anymore. Not any one person's fault, at least not totally. It's just Schopenhauerian tragedy.

The other thing I'd like to comment on is that opening shot of Charlotte in her panties--take Sofia's name out of the credits and show that to a feminist theorist steeped in the whole Male Gaze claptrap; it'd be interesting to hear what would be said.

Posted by: Mike Kelly on October 18, 2003 1:24 AM

The wonderful All Music Guide has guide pages for both Dream Pop and Shoegaze music.

Dreampop: click here.

Shoegaze: click here.

To my mind, the extension of little moments--thereby according them some measure of consequence and the time to appreciate it--works particularly well in both the music and in the film. I'm 24 and while ostensibly a "hustler" in the sense outlined above, I'm also acutely prone to bouts of being "Lost."

I saw the film with my girlfriend--our relationship is still relatively new--and the most interesting aspect of the movie is how it got us to talk about our parents' relationships, a topic which I rarely spend much time thinking about or discussing.

Posted by: Brian on October 18, 2003 11:11 AM

Laurel Canyon was the epitome of a "plot driven" movie. "Why are the characters doing that?" I found myself asking. "Because the plot tells them they have to," is the only answer that came back.

Girlfriend takes time off from finishing her dissertation to have with the rockers? Sure, why not? Why is this a life-changing event? Does anyone know any grad students that didn't at least slow down on their way to PhD-hood?

On the other hand, what was her motivation? A 26-or-so year old woman goes through college and grad school and doesn't have a chance to break loose until she stays with Frances McDormand? And it's not like they sucked her in to their web of sin. She starts seeking them out. Credible as a story with a high-school girl or college Freshman, but not for an ABD living in Boston.

Aside from the lack of motivation, the acting was good.

Posted by: pathos on October 18, 2003 1:40 PM

Mike -- LIke you, I used to be interested mainly in movies that are more than movies (although by being movies in the first place, if you know what I mean). And I probably wouldn't be much interested in movies at all if it weren't for such movies. And, hey, I'm off to see an Ozu on the big screen tonight. With age (and crabbiness and fatigue, I suspect), I've eased up on that. These days I tend to movies interesting anthropologically in a general way, and I've got a lot more respect for a movie that just does its job and does its well. I don't know if I find that its own more modest kind of transcendence or whether I've just become an old coot. But be sure to tip me off to any really transporting experiences you have at the movies. Oh, actualy, that's the reason why: I wasn't being transported often enough to make it worth my while to go on seeing movies. I was having to hold my breath for too long in between transcendences. It became a matter of develop a new kind of interest in movies or leave the whole thing behind. So I adapted. These days I don't go looking for it, though I'd like to think I'm still open to it. I saw an interview somewhere with Scarlett about the panties shots, by the way. She said she was nervous about doing them, but Sofia pushed everyone off the set and put the panties on herself and made her feel comfy about the whole thing, and isn't it great ... Somehow Sofia's being a fellow woman and being willing to wear the panties herself put Scarlett at ease. Performers are great.

Brian -- Thanks for the links. I'll be a little less pop-music stupid now.

Pathos -- I wish "Laurel Canyon" had had a plot! You make a good point, that a failed character-driven movie leaves you in a peculiar state -- sitting there wondering, "what the hell?" and scratching your head a lot.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 19, 2003 5:59 PM takes you to the German-English translation service of one Jessica Spengler., with dashes, takes you to the movie's site.

Saw it last night, finally, and came back to read the commentary again. I enjoyed it, but not as much as my girlfriend, Jenni, did.

Posted by: Dixon on October 21, 2003 10:46 AM

Yes, I did enjoy it. Very much. And not just because I'm a Bill Murray fan, or because the soundtrack was spot-on, or because the cinematography was dreamy and gorgeous, or because I've felt stuck, lost and lonely at one point or another in my life...

I loved how the movie poked fun at so many things: the American-Japanese cultural exchange, particularly the ways in which the Japanese co-opt American culture (perhaps most importantly, WHAT they choose to co-opt), and then how they make it so Japanese, and Americans who exoticize the Orient; Americans who are ignorant of other cultures, and in general those who behave like "typical Americans" when they go abroad; the hipper/cooler-than-thou mentality that permeates the art, music, and film scenes; and finally Hollywood blockbuster movies.

I quite enjoyed laughing at the ditsy-American-actress character who was in Japan to promote her latest movie, a mock-Asian action flick. She was completely and ridiculously full of herself, especially when she did the interview and talked about how much she had in common with Keanu Reeves. Maybe it isn't nice to make fun of stupid people, but I could relate to Charlotte's derision of the ditsy actress for not knowing that Evelyn Waugh was a man. Her husband was such a stereotypical hipster -- I loved it when he complained that the band he was photographing was being forced to wear Rolling Stone-type rock-n-roll clothes instead of their usual (fashionably) nerdy attire. And the scene where Charlotte's Japanese friend Charlie Brown goes a little nuts in a bar and they all get chased out by laser BB gun-toting bartenders was hilarious!

What moved me was the (chaste) relationship that develops between Bob and Charlotte (this was for me the most "real" aspects of the film). Despite their age difference, they are kindred spirits, each feeling trapped, lost, and looking but not really sure what it is that they seek. If this had been a typical Hollywood film, these characters would have had sex, left their respective spouses, and lived happily ever after. Whatever her reason, Sophia Coppola wisely chose to not go that route.

Posted by: Jennifer on October 21, 2003 3:28 PM

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