The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Talking a bit about my favourite movie

with 21 comments

Which movie is your favourite movie, and why?

It’s a tricky question, isn’t it? While it’s not all that difficult to put together a top 100 list (at least if you’re careless about it like me), the number one position is a different species. It requires at least a minimum level of thinking and consideration, which made me so indecisive that I almost gave up about it.

What eventually saved me was that I realized that it’s not as if we’re building a monument or throwing ourselves into a lifelong marriage. It’s OK to shift preferences, even on a day-to-day basis, depending on your mood and life circumstances.

The day when I sent my contribution to the top 100 movie ballot they’re running over at the Filmspotting forums, Lost in Translation happened to be my number one. Next year when they run this again, it could very well be a different movie.

I’m pretty certain though that it still will have a spot on my top 100 list and in this post I’ll try to explain why, in a brief and completely inadequate manner. I spot a curious connection by the way: the more I love a movie, the harder is it for me to put my thoughts about it into words. Can you ever describe love without killing it?

So bare with me when I give my reasons for falling in love with Lost in Translation

Capturing disconnection
Sometimes in our lives we reach a point when we’re feeling lost, disconnected and utterly lonely. It can happen in your twenties, paralysed at the thought of all the opportunities there are, worrying about making the wrong choices. Or the feeling will come to you as you middle aged stare into the mirror in disbelief, wondering if that old, tired, ugly person really is YOU, and you wonder if this was all there was to it, life, if it’s over now and why the hell didn’t you make more out of it?

Travelling to a strange country, spending times at those in-between-places like hotels and airports, enhances this feeling, which can be for good and for bad. Mostly for good I think, as long as you don’t get stuck in the time-out from your ordinary life.

I’m not sure if I manage to convey this feeling to you properly, but I know that Lost in Translation does it. But while it’s a movie of deep melancholy, there’s also something soothing about it. It’s as if it whispers to me somewhere: yes, we’re just a bunch of small, insecure and lonely people, regardless of how old we are, regardless of the size of our bank account. Life sucks to a certain extent and we’re all lonely wanderers, walking on a path that is our personal, which no one ever can share completely. But it also whispers to me that while we’re lonely, we don’t need to be it all the time. Sometimes we meet people who we recognize on a deeper level – what do they say? – like a thief recognizes another one as they meet on the street. We see their vulnerability and they see ours and while our paths are going in completely different directions, this moment of truth can stay with us, like the bottle of Galadriel to pull out from our memory storage, reminding us that we are not quite as alone as we feel.

At heart the movie is most about Bob and Charlotte of course, about their disconnection to their lives and about the nature of their friendship (oh, how liberating isn’t it that they never get closer to being intimate with each other than just holding a foot!). But I also liked it as a movie about travelling. I bet I would feel just as foreign as them if I ever visited Japan, but also as intrigued. That’s how travelling to far distant countries is. It’s enchanting and fascinating, but at the same time scary as hell and you feel so small and insignificant and it while it exhausts you it also make you sleepless, feeling strangely awake and alive.

I don’t know if this description of why I put Lost in Translation as my number one makes any sense, but I can’t find any way to put it better for the time being.

I love it, not because of a particular reason like the photo, the acting, the script, the music or the editing. I love it because it tells something about being me. And perhaps it makes me feel a little bit less lost.

Written by Jessica

August 30, 2011 at 1:00 am

21 Responses

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  1. You are now my new favorite writer. I’m so glad Andy linked you in his Mondays link post. After all, “Lost in Translation” is my favorite film ever. I loved it so much that I wrote an essay about that film a few years ago that I’ve re-posted last year for the Director’s Chair on Sofia Coppola:

    It’s probably never going to change and I watch every September 21st not just because it’s Bill Murray’s birthday but also it’s the day that I first saw it for the first of three times in a theater that year. It remains a very special film in my heart.

    Steven Flores

    August 30, 2011 at 1:59 am

    • I should also add that the picture you put is among one of my favorite shots of the film as that whole scene of Charlotte staring out at Tokyo is my all-time favorite scene.

      Steven Flores

      August 30, 2011 at 5:19 am

    • I just went over to your place and read the post you linked me. And what a post! It’s beautiful, insightful and indepth and I feel as if I’m just doing phonecall graffiti compared to your work, which is a real paiting. Thank you for letting me know of its existance, even if I feel a little bit embarrassed now as I look at my own post.

      There’s no doubt about that we feel very much the same about this movie, even though I wouldn’t go as far as to remember the day when I first watched it.

      And the photo I chose for the post was picked very deliberately. I had to look around a bit to find it, but I knew that it was the one I wanted because it’s one of the images from the movie that has stuck most with me.


      August 30, 2011 at 7:48 am

  2. While I don’t really like Lost in Translation, I love what you had to say about it and why it was your #1.

    Corey Atad

    August 30, 2011 at 2:18 am

    • Thank you Corey. I know you’ll disagree slightly with me about my take on the movie that comes up tomorrow as well, but the differences in our taste makes for more interesting discussions.


      August 30, 2011 at 7:50 am

  3. Wonderful post Jessica. I can’t say that I share your love for Lost in Translation but that’s what makes movie so special. Each of us have a particular favorite for a particular reason and the best movies are always the ones that ring true to each of us on a personal level because they say something about our own identity.


    August 30, 2011 at 2:23 am

    • Thank you! It does feel a little bit intimidating, sort of scary to leave out myself in this way. It’s so personal. But I’ve learned to not care about those fears. For me blogging is about crossing those borders and getting real to myself and the world.


      August 30, 2011 at 7:52 am

  4. I love that movie too, it’s so unpretentious, honest and real. no loud scenes in it, no absolutes, no glorious happy ending – but the duality of life in every little detail. life is bitter-sweet, full of letting go. the movie conveys that message artfully and subtly. besides that I am a huge BM fan, he’s always had that vulnerability only the best of clowns have, even in his most comical roles.


    August 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

    • I agree about everything you say. Not the least is the ending just wonderful. And I really don’t want to know what they’re saying there. I love the way it keeps us hanging. I also love BM when he’s showing a serious and vulnerable side. Groundhog Day and Broken Flowers are other memorable movies with him. GD is actually on my top 100 list as well. I’ve seen it a lot of times and I never get tired of it, for some reason. Which is a bit of a funny coincidence I suppose.


      August 30, 2011 at 11:26 am

  5. Lost in Translation, the movie that burned both Sofia Coppola & Scarlett Johansson in my heart. I adored it the moment I’ve seen it. Romantic movies too often follow the same clichés but here we have a movie that dares to be different, dares to embrace melancholy and dares to let its main characters keep a platonic relationship. The Karaoke scene is one of my favorite movie scenes: “More than this, you know there’s nothing” sums up their relationship.

    After this movie I followed Sofia Coppola and I enjoyed her other movies although none can yet tip this movie. I also followed Scarlett and Girl with the Pearl Earring offers a very similar vibe to Lost in Translation. Recently however I haven’t really liked her work that much. The sound of rolling money has her appearing in action movies like Iron Man and B-grade movies. It’s a shame as those movies hardly need much acting talent.

    As for my favorite movie, as you said: it doesn’t have to be set in stone. So for the moment it’s Before Sunset. Another romance movie that dares to step outside the clichés. And finally, a movie that has two intelligent people that feels like it could happen to anyone.


    August 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    • Yes, I can’t recall any other movie dealing with a platonic relationship of this kind. It feels quite different and as you say wonderfully free of clichés.

      What a pity about Scarlett! I’ve seen her in a few Allen movies after Lost in Translation, but after that I lost track of her. Apparently she’s downgraded to movies I don’t care much about.

      I haven’t seen Before Sunset, but I’ll definitely add it to my to-watch-list now!


      August 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      • Indeed, Match Point was also brilliant. I do like movies like Iron Man, it’s just that I think it’s a shame to see her in a minor role which doesn’t require much acting. She should be the star of the movie.

        As for Before Sunset, it’s actually on the “also recommended” list when you click on Lost in Translation on IMDB. Well worth watching although I’ll admit that it’s probably for a large part due to my age being similar to the protagonists when I saw it for the first time.


        August 31, 2011 at 12:27 am

        • A good movie is a good movie regardless of the age of the characters imo. I was very engaged watching Paranoid Park, even if I’m probably as far as you can come from being a teenage skateboard riding boy.


          August 31, 2011 at 10:40 am

  6. I’m a Lost in Translation fan too. I much preferred it to Sofia’s most recent work, Somewhere, even though I did like it too. A very interesting selection at #1 but one I absolutely understand. Nice write-up Jessica!

    Andrew Buckle

    August 31, 2011 at 6:47 am

    • Thanks. I’m afraid I haven’t seen Somewhere. I thought Marie Antoinette was decent, but it was mostly eye-candy I’m afraid. It’s not easy to reach up to the level of Lost in Translation.


      August 31, 2011 at 10:43 am

  7. It’s a lovely film, one high up in my top 100 and I think you did a good job of capturing what makes it work. It’s a film I’ve struggled with writing about many times and I’ve never mustered up the strength to write anything on it yet.

    James Blake Ewing

    September 5, 2011 at 5:18 am

  8. wonderful.

    i adore this film. it’s so warm and sad and human and uplifting. i think you’ve inspired me to see it again having dismissed it over the recent years as a passing fad due to the failure of her subsequent films to live up to that LiT feeling.

    blah blah blah toby

    September 6, 2011 at 1:05 am

    • Great! It IS a little disappointing when a director gets that one-hit-wonder early on in the career and then goes downwards. You’d rather see it go the other way.


      September 6, 2011 at 7:27 am

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