November 12th, 2018
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Returning to the movie, I feared that this relationship, too, might be diminished by time: both the length of time that has passed since the movie’s release and the moment of time in which I watch, weighted with a hyper-vigilant attention to all that can go wrong between older, more powerful men and younger, less powerful women. But Bob’s interest in a woman 20 years his junior strikes me as even more gentle, even less sexually charged, than it once did. Credit is due to Murray’s veteran presence, but credit is due, too, to Coppola’s faith in the specific story she is bent on telling, its details and its ambition.
Both Bob and Charlotte are perfectly aware of how it looks, of the dull and ancient narrative that would claim them, of the clichés that would hem them in. So is the film they occupy. “Movies are not about what they’re about,” as Roger Ebert used to say. “They’re about how they’re about them.” Lost in Translation goes about its well-worn plot with a tone neither sinister nor saccharine, trying to convince the viewer of neither the rightness nor the wrongness of its central romance, but simply of its plain, particular existence.
In the course of doing so, the movie makes the admirable argument that qualities like softness and quiet are as deserving of rigorous artistic attention as their more bombastic, violent counterparts: a light kiss can be as meaningful as wall-slamming sex, a smile can convey more than a monologue. Why not be tender when we can? We know how it looks, yes, and yet. Bob tucks Charlotte into bed—she sleeps, at last—and departs for his own; he carries her down a hotel hallway like the child, we are reminded, that he has.
Is this complex? Is it nuanced? Is it the kind of complex, nuanced relationship we are told, by so many straw men, will be banished from our art and our lives in the cleansing flood of the MeToo movement? Art is made of stronger stuff than straw. Good and lasting art is more than capable of locating and excavating just such tenuous relationships; movies are, in fact, a grand arena in which we might examine our uncanny wants, our sudden and inexplicable loves. The relationship between Bob and Charlotte might sound, in summary, like a cheap fantasy—the aging man in search of vitality, the young woman in search of devotion—but summary is the opposite of art in general, of this movie in its unforgettable particulars.