Lost in Translation

This movie is the story of two Americans– one an aging actor and one a newly graduated, newlywed– similarly adrift in Tokyo’s at once foreign and familiar culture. The city is portrayed as a hyper-modern, highly affluent urban oasis, attracting actors like Bob Harris– who is flown in to shoot a whisky commercial for two million dollars and celebrity photographers like Charlotte’s husband. Meeting at the hotel bar– a space the film returns to multiple times, always with a singer performing in english for the tourists, the unexpected duo connects as two foreigners in a futuristic city that has assimilated American culture. Language and music are used throughout the movie to emphasize where American and Japanese culture meet as a place of disjuncture rather than simple “Americanization,” to draw on Appadurai’s argument. In this clip, Charlotte has invited Bob out with some of her friends from Tokyo in their first outing beyond the hotel bar. The scene focuses on Charlotte and Bob, to the exclusion of the locals, as they sing dated American pop songs that are familiar to the Americans and Japanese alike. Music in English is used throughout the film as soundtrack and scenery crossing the language barrier, while the Japanese language itself is treated as an uncrossable boundary– there is no English dubbing for Japanese lines and the most comedic scenes involve Bob Harris’s failure to communicate, through gesticulation or phonetic imitation, with the locals.


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