Sofia Coppola Week: Lost In Translation, and The Virgin Suicides

I watched these both for the first time a few days apart, so I’m just going to layer them on top of each other and talk about the overlay. Some spoilers ahead.

Do you know what I like? I wish I didn’t, but also I don’t care—I like that Sofia Coppola romanticizes things she’s not supposed to. Suicide, young women attracting older men, pale pink. After these two I’m finding it more and more surprising we don’t yet have a Sofia Coppola/Lana Del Rey collab, the other queen of holding dangerous eye contact with marked men in the center of all that’s the worst and best about lush, seductive femininity. You’ve never seen pastels so bold than in these women’s hands. Female characters who seem to be almost indulging themselves in exhibition, like one of the embodiments of that Margaret Atwood quote: “You are your own voyeur.”

Watching The Virgin Suicides reaffirmed for me how I’d seen Lost In Translation, that it was mostly about what Charlotte needed. Not as much Bob, who to my eyes was gradually revealed to be a character who was functioning closer to the role that all of Japan was playing: mostly just there to contextualize an individual [white] person’s loneliness. But, setting aside 2003’s nouveau orientalism to turn to the people the movie does care about, I don’t think what Charlotte needed from Bob was actually sexual per se, though it wasn’t separate from that. A strange, difficult to categorize mix of both romantic and paternal reassurance, a little more Oedipal than Daddy but still a bit more platonic than either of them are generally. A kiss that felt like it was there mostly due to a lack of another easily available gesture—the true shape of it found more in his hand curled on the back of her head, an unheard whisper that ends in “Okay?” Earlier the same hand sleepily patting her bare foot: “You’re not hopeless.”

Again, I don’t like that I liked this weird quasi-romantic relationship between a recent college grad and a man twice her age, but it’s Sofia and she does this to me! I also don’t like how much I enjoyed every dreamy shot of doomed teenage girl-limbs draped around a bedroom in alluring ennui. My favorite scene in The Virgin Suicides was one of those: the sequence where they and the neighborhood boys just wordlessly play each other records over the phone in quiet emotive tableau, alone together. In fact the moment Lost In Translation got me was also musical: when a soft, drunk Bill Murray sang a gently threadworn cover of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’ sitting against the window in a Tokyo karaoke room. Maybe this too is a Sofia Coppola thing—letting the dialogue fall for a minute, and just letting the characters listen to a song. A sort of shorthand for introspection that when done well holds you still and contemplative too, just listening along.

★★

One thought on “Sofia Coppola Week: Lost In Translation, and The Virgin Suicides

  1. Pingback: In the Mood For Love | Watch Log

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