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Found in Translation

By April 27, 2010Writing

I have this habit of discovering things a looooong time after everyone else. For instance, I discovered the movie Speed a good four years late. So there I was, telling everyone, ‘Did you see his ass when he got off the bus and he was clinging to the side of that luggage cart (or whatever it was) when they were driving around on the empty runways at the airport?” And everyone was like, “Yes, Julie, we saw his ass…four years ago.”

On the bright side, I did remind them of some gorgeous cinematography, so there’s that.

Anywho, a few nights ago, I ‘discovered’ a movie called Lost in Translation.

And in this movie, there is a love that, well, I loved. It is a love of two people who a) get each other implicitly and immediately, b) love each other implicitly and immediately, and c) just want to be around each other implicitly and immediately.

There is, of course, the underlying question throughout the movie about whether or not they will end up sleeping together…and I’ll tell you when I knew that it was not going to happen. It’s when Bob meets Charlotte out at a joint called ‘Orange’ that turns out to be a strip club. And the stripper he’s uncomfortably watching does a back bend on her little platform, and Bob can’t help himself from reaching out to catch her, an involuntary and urgent attempt to make sure she doesn’t fall. That’s the moment.

Then later that night, when Charlotte and Bob are lying on his bed together, sweetly and unable to sleep, there was no question in my mind that any sex would happen as a result.

Charlotte tells Bob, “I’m stuck.”

And he tells her,”You’ll figure that out. I’m not worried about you. Keep writing.” And then, with one hand on her foot, making direct contact for the first time, and as the scene fades, he says, “You’re not hopeless.”

The care and the safety are palpable.

Watch this movie again. But this time as a writer, as a creator, as a purveyor of stories and feelings. It is one of the quietest movies I’ve ever seen. (As I didn’t grow up in the era of silent films). Most of the action happens through body language, through the slightest and most profound movements of the eyes – and the muscles that surround them.

With words behind movements and nuance, without saying it out loud and without clothes scattered around the hotel floor, these actors – but first (and most importantly) their writer (Sofia Coppola) – found a way also to make this love palpable.


Plus, they gave me this song, which is now my favorite. Listen to the words. They’re also palpable.

Image credit: urban data

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Siddhartha says:

    I thought about Lost in Translation while reading this. I remember seeing the movie and liking it but I couldn’t remember all the details (what was that, like seven years ago?).

    But I get your point about subtlety. I really like it when an author can imply things without being obvious. You almost wonder why you have the impression you do.

    It’s one of those skills I wish I had but don’t and I think that makes me admire those who can pull it off even more.

    Thanks for reminding me of a great film. I’ll have to check it out today.

    (I hope my boss doesn’t catch me watching Netflix.)
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Failure to Adapt: The Agonizing Death of the Publishing World =-.

  • Edgy Mama says:

    Thanks for being profound and palpable on a morning when I’m feeling particularly dense and struggling to write something as simple as beer news. Now I think I can do it.
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Go get yourself some balls, ladies =-.

  • Jason says:

    I cannot recall watching a movie more than once. I can innately recall most every scene of most any movie I have seen, however. “Lost In Translation” was and remains a fabulous movie on many levels. The scene that FORCES the viewer to use every ounce of interest and imagination is the final scene between the two, where the dialog is indecipherable, leaving the viewer wondering, and possibly a tad frustrated. A wonderful touch by Sophia that so few artist in that medium are able to use effectively in today’s movies. So, how did YOU feel about that scene? Did you try to listen to it again? Try subtitles? Read lips? Personally, I just accepted the scene for what it was…

    • Julie Roads says:

      I did look around on the web – and there are quite a few people who think they have that whisper sussed out. I agree with you, though – it doesn’t really matter exactly what the words were. From the look on his face, his hands on her face – and her smile and tears after, you just knew that their shared experience of each other and of ‘them’ had just been expressed, named.

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    That’s an eloquent analysis of a film that leaves most people incomprehensible. You make it simple, though, and it seems so obvious. It’s so effective that now I want to watch it all over again just to see the movie you saw in it.

    And here I thought the definitive movie about writing was Stranger than Fiction….
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..Why You Need a Professional Blog (Part 1) =-.

  • Kelly Diels says:

    I’m going to ignore all your very useful points about storytelling and subtlety and get straight to the part that I’m MOST interested in, always.


    You’re saying that care and safety do not foster great sex?

    Consistent gestures of care, attention and safety (I know it is an illusion, but it is an alluring one) evoke a VISCERAL reaction from me.


    • Julie Roads says:

      You know what? I published this and then left my computer, got in my car and thought – ‘Did I just make it seem like the absence of the throwdown was critical to the love?” Because I didn’t mean too…or at least not as a replacement.

      This is just a different kind of experience – the not having it becomes the throwdown, if you will.

      It reminds me of one of my other all time favorite onscreen love-duos: Natalie Portman and Timothy Hutton in Beautiful Girls. Their love is, again, palpable…but they don’t do it. Because in that case, ewww.

      SO GOD NO: I am not saying that care and safety do not foster great sex. Not even close. The existence of one and not the other in this movie is irrelevant. The palpability of their love without the sex is just something, in this case, I feel – especially from the view as a writer and a watcher – is really and truly RIPE. It hits me somewhere, hard.

      • Kelly Diels says:


        Me too, with the Nathalie Portman/Timothy Hutton.

        And I have HUGE issues about that sort of thing.

        But love is infinitely more flexible than we often allow…and so subtle, intense, nuanced depictions of it are just so damn true.

    • Julie Roads says:

      P.S. I realize that your reaction is in part because I talked about knowing that they weren’t going to do it b/c of the strip club scene. The way their love is shown/felt is not linked to that. I just loved that moment, his impulse to catch the hooker, because it showed so much about who he was as a person/character. And how he feels about women.

  • Gail says:

    Lost in Translation, the movie, is the one exception that I can think of in which the movie is better than the book. The book was nothing like the movie and fell quite short. I loved, loved, loved the movie. The tension between wanting them to –but not to — sleep together was delicious.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Okay – Kelly and Gail. I’m realizing now what my issue is. I don’t want to see Bill Murray either naked or having sex!!! I love when I finally figure shit out.

  • Nicki says:

    Julie – I read this early this morning and then came back. I loved “Lost in Translation.” Your words about it are so true. Their love was palpable.

    But I so relate to your last comment. That is the way I felt about “It’s Complicated.” I didn’t like it because I didn’t want to see Alec Baldwin naked more than I already had in that movie. I wanted that to end! I think seeing him naked made me dislike the movie.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Boston Marathon =-.

    • Kelly Diels says:

      I could write many, MANY blog posts about how much I loved “It’s Complicated.”

      And I do NOT love Alec Baldwin.

      I softened, though, when he was naked and ruefully rubbed his paunch. omgosh, men have body issues too? How vulnerable and totally human – and kinda hot.

  • Andi says:

    This is in my Top 3 for favorite movies of all time. I love it. I love that which is spoken in the unspoken. It is a beautiful film.
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Sandwich Travels =-.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    It’s weird. I’ve never been able to get these more artsy, not as obvious films. I saw Lost in Translation and just felt lost afterward. I had the same feeling after seeing Howard’s End. Part of it is that I thought Lost in Translation perpetuated so many myths–about love, about art, about everything.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Story of My Journalism Conference =-.

  • Just found your blog, and I love it. Great writing, witty, and charming, all at once. I think I need to add you to my blog roll!

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