A Very Thoughtful IMDb Review

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A Very Thoughtful IMDb Review

#1 Post by Cryogenic » Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:20 pm

I just came across this brilliant review on IMDb:
Looking for something real in an artificial world

Date: 9 September 2007
Author: jupitergal2 from Maine

This movie was more fascinating the second time I saw it, because I began to make all the connections. Where to start? The main characters come to Tokyo because they are caught up in artificial worlds already: Bob Harris is an actor, and Charlotte is married to a photographer, who is also caught up in show business and artificial portrayals of people. Not only are Bob and Charlotte isolated by their inability to communicate with the Japanese, but their inability to communicate with their spouses. In Tokyo, they're surrounded by a culture that embraces artifice: Overabundant city lights, garish and fluorescent colors, huge video arcades offering artificial worlds, hookers, fake gunfights, and karaoke. This is a culture that paints its own world, rather than stepping into the painting created by nature. It's fascinating but, to the main characters, also very foreign. Charlotte tries to understand it. She decorates her room with a fake spray of blossoms. Later she ties something (a piece of paper?) to a tree that is covered with similar decorations, which make it look like it is blossoming -- again, instead of waiting for nature to show its blooms, the people there have made their own. Charlotte sees a young bride, face painted white and lips painted red, like a doll. The young bride doesn't say a word as she offers her hand to her groom. Charlotte, also a young wife, is realizing that she doesn't want to be the silent, accepting wife. She married young and didn't know her husband, but she's finding out that, even though she feels affection for him, she can't communicate with him. In the expanded version, there is also a scene where she sees two small robots, that look like little girl-women, with no mouths and blank eyes. One makes "eye-contact" with her and then voicelessly turns away. (Again, more symbolism of Charlotte herself, but also what she's afraid of becoming.) Charlotte is discovering that she's something more than the showy, ignorant people her husband has surrounded himself with (such as the empty-headed actress who makes up outrageous lies just to get attention) but Charlotte also isn't quite ready to break away yet, because she worries that what her husband says about her, that she's got to point out how stupid other people are, is true. She's just growing into the realization that she has the potential to be deeper than that, but hasn't figured out how to express it yet without seeming jealous or cynical. Bob also is having problems communicating with his wife. When they call each other, they avoid saying anything personal at all. They talk about colors to decorate their house (more artifice) but anytime either one begins to say anything more personal, the other one cuts them off.

When he and Charlotte begin to get to know each other, they discover there's something real between them. One telling little clue to the difference between Charlotte's husband and Bob is in the Polaroids. In the Polaroids Charlotte looks at, taken by her husband of himself and her, her husband is always in the center of the photos and Charlotte is in the periphery. But in the pictures Bob takes, she's in the center. He focuses on her. Bob and Charlotte are drawn together, able to talk about personal things and share how they feel. But Bob figures out that Charlotte doesn't yet know what she wants, and he resists having an affair with her, even though she probably wouldn't object. He knows she is confused about her feelings for her husband and marriage and he doesn't want to be the cause of her mistakes. But he does do something HE regrets then, by sleeping with the garishly red-haired (more artifice) singer from the bar. Charlotte finds out and begins to pout, not understanding why, if he was going to cheat on his wife, he did not choose HER. But Bob says something very truthful to her: Couldn't you find anyone else to lavish you with attention? Which is mean, but true...whatever problems in which she has found herself, she has to figure things out and act on her own, and not expect someone else to save her. What they seem to have found is something real, if not actually true love (this is no fairy tale) but SOMETHING. Affection, friendship...? They SEE each other as they are. They listen to each other. And you know that, whatever he says to her in the end, it's something neither will forget.
There are some fascinating insights into Charlotte's character and her journey through the film in there. This person has watched very closely. I am especially impressed with them bringing the deleted scenes into their analysis.

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#2 Post by Flyonthewall » Fri Oct 19, 2007 3:20 am

Wow... the insight into Charlotte was very profound and does make you think. No wonder Im still searching for Charlotte...lol :roll:
"...Stay here, with me...."

The Search for Charlotte continues....

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#3 Post by onesmokin3g » Sun Dec 16, 2007 8:35 pm

i never realized the poloroid photo contrast she brings up.....very interesting.

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#4 Post by Beery » Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:10 am

Hmmm. I never really understood all the references in the movie to artificiality. Every time I think I understand all LiT has to offer I find there's more depth to it. What a pity that so many people just didn't get it.
You want more mysterious? I'll just try and think, "Where the hell's the whiskey?"

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#5 Post by Congruous » Fri Jan 04, 2008 1:38 pm

I did notice the photos John took of him and Charlotte and saw how he put himself in the center of the images, but I had forgotten that Bob also took some shots. This is a nice essay.
"Are there no more arrows left?"

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#6 Post by Cryogenic » Sun Mar 02, 2008 7:06 pm

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I hope no one has been or will be offended by what could be considered sweeping generalisations -- e.g. the reviewer expressing their opinion of Japan as a culture that "embraces artifice" in Tokyo. I personally think that this agrees with the visual temperament of the film in the modern city segments, however. So, with that out of the way...

Another aspect that seems to exemplify what this reviewer has talked about is the whisky shoot. Not only is Bob, a movie star, being asked to pretend to be other movie stars ("You're a movie star!" / "Yes, I should be doing movies!"), but the whisky he's holding isn't even a real whiskey ("This is iced tea!"). Irony seems to pervade the film at every level; LIT plays with the genuine and the fake again and again. Consider the car ride through Tokyo at the start. In the first minute, the "fourth wall" of the movie is almost broken by the weight of the insane juxtaposition of Bill Murray playing Bob Harris looking out the car window at a billboard of Bill Murray playing Bob Harris! And Bob's performance of "More Than This" seems to epitomise the self-effacing irony that the film is constructed with. Infact, all of Sofia Coppola's films depict characters in superficial worlds, and all hint that reality is somewhere outside the characters' bubbles -- and these semi-fantasy worlds are all untenable, as powerfully depicted when they each come to an end at the close of their respective films.

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