Lost in Translation

There is an opinion letter about Lost In Translation in today’s edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal. The author of the letter, Salil Tripathi, argues that critics who say that Lost in Translation mocks the Japanese are wrong. I had to stop and think about it.
Lost In Translation is a movie about two Americans that meet in a hotel in Tokyo. They are both suffering from jet lag and a sense of displacement or alienation from the Japanese culture around them. Anyone who’s been to Japan on business will find the beginning of the movie funny. At one point I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. However, I don’t believe the movie was making fun of the Japanese. I think it was highlighting how foreign it all looks to an American. The movie was making fun of that sense of disorientation you can feel when you’re encountering a new culture for the first time and you’ve only had two hours of sleep. Bill Murray, who’s not even sure what he’s doing in Japan (other than they are paying him lots of money) and he’s having problems at home, just looks lost and that’s a very familiar to feeling to many business visitors to Japan.

Most of us however, do end up sleeping at some point, and begin enjoying the cultural differences. Business trips to Asia are always my favorite.

While I really enjoyed the beginning of the movie, I thought the movie was very slow. However, I’d have to agree with Salil Tripathi, I don’t think the movie was mocking the Japanese culture.

Two issues I did have with the movie:
– The gyms at international business hotels in Asia are NEVER empty in the early morning hours. There is always a large number of jet lagged business travelers waiting for treadmills as soon as the gym opens in the morning.
– While I’ve sometimes had problems being understood or understanding what someone was saying in Japan, I’ve never had them brush me off or continue to repeat the same thing over and over again. In my experience they have always been very helpful and taken great pains to make sure I understood and was understood.