Dan Friedman
More than This, p. 3

In the past few weeks I have seen a number of excellent films in which the film or the characters move across - translate - from one institution to another. In Kieslowski's Three Colours: White, Karol and Dominique move from marriage to prison. In Shainberg's Secretary Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) moves out of the mental institution and makes a place for herself as Edward E. Grey's (James Spader) bondage secretary/wife. In American Splendor Harvey Pekar makes the transition from comic to cinema, and in the aforementioned Matchstick Men, Roy Waller makes it from rich unhappy OCD con artiste to poor but happily married carpet salesman. In each of these other films the trajectory and tension of the story comes as the initial framework proves unstable or pathological for at least one character, inspiring the search foranother. And in each of these films the new institution is thematized (Secretary's bondage, White closing on prison bars, the frames of the film echoing the frames of the comic in Splendor, the pregnant new wife replacing the phantom con-daughter in Matchstick Men).

Lost in Translation is different. It would be easy to make a film about self-transformation, like all the various films listed above. But the glimpses of the numinous in Lost in Translation take place without disturbing the status quo. On a superficial level, it is the anti-High-Holidays film, because no change takes place at all. There is no rebirth, no return. The two protagonists remain unhappily married to other people. There is no dramatic finale (unlike The Virgin Suicides). Yet there is nonetheless transcendence. The underplayed and silent hug of rapprochement and goodbye is the appropriate ending to a relationship that, without changing any of the characters' material situations, awakens a complicated yet beautiful hope: that even if the connection Bob and Charlotte had is as evanescent as the cherry blossoms, and even if it can be translated neither into their ordinary lives nor into mere conversation, that even if there is nothing more than this - that it might be enough to matter.

Happy New Year.

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