Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, March 13, 2004


We watched Lost in Translation last night and American Splendor tonight. Of the two, I much preferred American Splendor. Ms. Coppola's movie is wonderful, in its way -- it's beautifully acted and put together. It's extremely poignent and true and evocative. I love Bill Murray and his is a great performance. I haven't seen Mystic River, but I'm sympathetic to the notion that Murray got shopped at the Oscars. But today, just a day later, it's mostly gone. It's a mood piece. It's exquisite and I have the mood stamped on the interior surface where such things are stored. It's there for good, but what facet of the imagination does that engage? The moment that they meet in the elevator and the moment when they finally fashion a satisfactory goodby form a shell that encloses all the longing and regret and fear of which these two souls are capable. But they are two moments and a shell is not a continuum. It's not like Brief Encounter where a narrative line takes you through a recapitualation of a compressed emotional matrix. I'm not saying this is a flaw. It's a remarkable way to look at it and I think it's exactly what she wanted to accomplish. As far as I'm concerned its one of the most convincing portraits of infatuation I've ever seen. I'm just saying that as it's not at the service of a larger goal it's victim to its own evanescence. It doesn't make you angry, or curious, or enthralled, or afraid, or thoughtful. It just breaks your heart a little and then goes away.

I think American Splendor may be, to a small degree, victim to it's own cleverness. It is clever and I think the innovative narrative elements come up short of getting in the movie's way, but only just. It is a much more dense movie, though. Both movies are about people dealing with almost unbearable loneliness. American Splendor is not as dense emotionally, but much more in terms of what the filmmaker puts in front of the characters to challenge their journey. The characters in Lost in Translation have only each other, their fears and their responsibilities to create the narrative tension. American Splendor throws everything but the kitchen sink in front of Harvey Pekar's way out of his miserable existance.

I'm not trying to make a case agains Lost in Translation, I just like the other kind of movie better.
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