Lost in Translation (2003) (Reprint) – Ace Long Review

This is my first ace film review ever! It was originally published twelve years ago, in the July 7, 2007 issue of AVENues. I have added the star and ace ratings for this post.

Lost in Translation
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
Written & Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Japan/U.S.A., 2003

Lost in Translation isn’t exactly an asexual movie. It has, after all, nothing to do with asexuality. The two main characters are presumably sexual – both are married and at least one has an affair during the course of the film. Celibacy is never discussed, nor is lack of sexual attraction, and even references to sex are fleeting.

The movie could be about many things. The disillusionment of old age. The uncertainty of youth. The weird things that happen when foreigners find themselves alone in a strange city. It is about all these things, but at the centre is a love story. A middle-aged man and a young girl meet at a Tokyo hotel and are drawn together by their shared alienation. They go out to lunch together, sing karaoke, and stay up till all hours talking. In a few short days they open up to eachother, pull wacky high-jinks, and even learn how to share comfortable silence.

Oh, and they don’t have sex. Did I mention that? No? That’s probably because it doesn’t seem very important, any more than the fact that they don’t play poker or climb Mount Fuji. This isn’t a movie about two characters who don’t have sex, it’s about two characters who do all kinds of things together. Sex just doesn’t happen to be one of them. From start to finish their relationship is portrayed as purely platonic.

Given the age difference between them, it’s tempting to say they are like a father and daughter, but that would be an oversimplification. No conventional analogy describes the relationship they share. It isn’t an unconsummated romance, a familial surrogacy, or even a traditional friendship. It’s one of those serendipitous relationships that happen when two strangers feel unexpectedly drawn to each other. Most of us have felt connections like that at least once in our lives, and if we have, then nothing about Lost in Translation should seem very strange to us. This movie is simply about those rarest of relationships, when the time is right, and the place is right, and the moment is just long enough, but not too long, that people have a chance to act on that attraction, and develop a friendship they will treasure for the rest of their lives. Not all of us get to experience that, but many of us, sexual and asexual, can understand what those friendships are like.

I doubt that Sophia Coppola set out to make an asexual movie. The lack of sex is not her main focus; it’s incidental to the story she’s telling. Then again, it’s not like a lack of sex is the main focus of most asexuals, either. Asexuality isn’t really about living a life based around not having sex; it’s about disidentifying with the whole concept of sexuality. So maybe Lost in Translation is an asexual movie. In the same way that being asexual means identifying with all the things in life that aren’t sex, Lost in Translation is about all the things other than sex that make up a relationship. Perhaps that’s what makes it so special. Perhaps in acknowledging relationships that transcend sexuality, where terms like “sexual” and “asexual” are irrelevant, it is in fact the one truly asexual movie.

Or maybe I’ll just call it a movie not about sex, and leave it at that.

4 Stars; 4 Aces

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