So I did. "Lost in Translation" is one of the most heralded movies of the year, and not just because the young Sofia who directed it is a Coppola. It is not a great movie but an extraordinary one, a window into our times from a next generation artist.
Sure, it has a kind of self-conscious artiness that wears after a while. Watch the young wife wander around Tokyo, observing the city: the lights, the skyscrapers, the temples, the TV shows -- all seen from the outside, they
are not windows into the culture but impenetrable mysteries. Other people are like that too. The lady in the kimono -- what does she think? How does she feel?Hard to say. Especially hard to say when the foreigners adopt Western forms: the Japanese artiste, the talk-show host, etc. Look at the doctor. He has on a white coat. He is talking and gesticulating in front of an X-ray, clearly doing what doctors do. But since he is speaking Japanese, it is to us (and his American patient) gibberish. Form, not without meaning, but suffused with inner mystery we cannot penetrate.
And of course Sofia Coppola means us to know that it is not just Japanese people who are impenetrable mysteries, but every human person. We yearn to end our loneliness, to know and be known. Yet surface penetration is all that we (mostly) achieve.
But once in a while, people connect. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a famous, rich, middle-aged family man with a wife who only used to make him laugh. He meets Charlotte, a young wife and Yale grad for whom life is still full of possibility. She doesn't know what to do with herself. After two years, she and her husband are beginning to learn that they are not, in fact, blissfully merged: They fight, they disappoint, they sense the possibility of betrayal, they separate for a few days, which gives Bob a chance to make his move.
Instead, Bob is content to just be with her. A small, intense, sacred moment is created outside of their real life in which each feels suddenly real to another human being.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.