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Sunday, September 12, 2004
  When you're lying awake...

Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest:
Love, hopeless love, my ardent soul encumbers:
Love, nightmare-like, lies heavy on my chest,
And weaves itself into my midnight slumbers!

-Iolanthe, Gilbert and Sullivan

I finally saw 'Lost in Translation' tonight, which makes this a little late in the day/year, but I'm not begging anyone to bear with me, you can move along if you like. I remember reading a lot about this film, but can't remember what was said, which isn't a slight on those who've written about it before, just an indication of the state of my memory and my tardiness. I'm fairly sure though that an awful lot of the affection the film is held in has to do with an unacknowledged cult of personality that has developed around Scarlett Johansson. I don't want to burden this down with slavering riffs about how lovely she seems, but there's definitely something about her, about the way she looks - like she's just regained her composure after crying - that is totally separate from the character Sofia Coppola wrote, and is visible in practically every film I've seen her in. The film isn't hugely funny, aside from one or two set-piece scenes with Bill Murray, it isn't especially interesting to look at, and overall I didn't really believe any of it ; but I liked it in spite of all this.

There's something absurd and optimistic about 'Lost in Translation' - a faith in the ability of people to be matched perfectly, to never hit a wrong note, to always exceed each others expectations. It is both seductive and sly, and I think, accepts the fact that most viewers will be aware that they are being courted quite blatantly. But that doesn't really matter all that much. Charlotte is beautiful and lonely, and in quite clumsy contrast with the neon buzz of money and fucking in the strip-club city around her, she's looking for something meaningful to do with her life. She's a cipher for what most people who watch Sophia Coppola films want from another person. What most of them will drift through life hoping to find, glacing at pretty people on trains who are reading interesting sounding books, wondering if chance has dictated that it's them, and wondering if somehow this is it.

Also, maybe I'm just projecting.

There's a deliberate innocence about the film, the only sexual act alluded to is jarring and transgressive. Charlotte looks up like a happy child when she's carried to bed and tucked in - though just for a second - quickly choosing sleep over intimacy. She lies in the foetal position on Bill Murray's bed, countering the obvious starring role played by her quite clearly post-adolescent body. I'm not sure I believe it though. There was a part of me that felt elated at the idea of love, microwaved to perfection in sixty-seconds by the intense lights of the walls of animated billboards; of it being borne out of necessity and sushi and karaoke. But to remove sex from the scenario quite so coyly felt like cheating.

This is why the appearance of 'Sometimes' by My Bloody Valentine on the soundtrack resonated perfectly. 'Loveless' is probably the most inaccurately titled album of all time. No other music captures the adolescent ethereality of thinking you're in love as well as this. The cyclical geiger counter roar of distortion, the murmured vocal on the edge of comprehension, the relentless thump of bass and drums - all swarming, repeating, endless - like someone's name going round in your head, or the memory of the last time you saw their face imprinted like after-glare.

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