The Null Device

Lost In Translation

Tonight, I went to see Lost In Translation; the new film from Sofia Coppola (who also did The Virgin Suicides). It was good, though not brilliant. The characters were like real people and not romantic-comedy templates or something, which was good, but the flow of the film was a bit prosaic and reality-TV-ish; I imagine that some Darren Aronofsky-style editing/visual language would have improved it a good deal.

Kevin Shields' incidental music was OK, though I wonder which parts were his; whether he just picked up the guitar and pedals and made some noise or whether he actually spent the past 12 years learning to write melodies and work with other instruments. (I'm of the opinion that Shields is rather overrated as a musician; mind you, I was one of those people who preferred Slowdive to MBV (as they actually had melodies and songs and such), and who agrees with these people on Loveless; then again, perhaps I'm just incapable of appreciating true genius.)

(I also noticed the Scientology self-help CD Scarlett Johansson's character was listening to in the film (the "Clearwater, FL" on the back of the disc is clearly visible); I wonder to what extent the Clams were involved in the production of this film (other than Giovanni Ribisi being one).)

There are 23 comments on "Lost In Translation":

Posted by: Luke Mon Jan 5 23:24:45 2004

Nah, I think Aronofsky's jumpcutting would've spoilt it. I found the flow to be perfectly-suited to travel-induced ennui. Coppola's eye was bang-on here, I feel.

Posted by: Alex http:// Tue Jan 6 01:33:47 2004

Is the clam CD merely product placement? If everyone else can buy screen exposure, why shouldn't they ... any other prominent brands / memes?

Posted by: Luke Tue Jan 6 03:16:02 2004

I thought the fact that they took the piss out of it (well, Bill's character seemed to) would've negated any sort of marketing value. And you know, that whole "chosen by your soul before you're even here" thing didn't seem to be met with any profound nods in anyone I saw the flick with...

Posted by: acb Tue Jan 6 13:33:02 2004

I'm not talking about Pi-style shock editing, though a bit more stylisation would have set the mood better. It could have been as subtle as colour grading, or something like some fairly minimalistic visual sequences with incidental music matching the visuals to create a mood (in the way that Clint Mansell's music goes with Aronofsky's visuals). Stylisation and choice of interesting angles/composition was almost nonexistent in _Lost_, and the music served only as "something to play during the quiet bits", without strengthening the film. Chances are its sole purpose was to get the old MBV fans into the cinemas and boost the gross that way.

Posted by: anonymouse http:// Tue Jan 6 15:49:13 2004

Ugh! Lightning Boy is a Clam? Say it isn't so!

Posted by: darren http:// Tue Jan 6 23:58:19 2004

>its sole purpose was to get the old MBV fans into the cinemas

Reporting for duty, Captain Melody. Seems to have done its job, because all 7 of us old MBV geezers turned up, waving our copies of Isn't Anything and hoping to hear twenty seconds of the lost third album...

Nice troll, though, especially the bit about Slowdive being better melodists. I would have gone all the way and added some stuff about being able to play properly and Steely Dan, but your restraint shows superior art.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 7 02:40:49 2004

Um, I wasn't trolling.

Posted by: darren Wed Jan 7 06:19:24 2004

So I gathered. I just thought criticising MBV on a lack of *melody* was, well, perverse. Bad melodies, trite melodies, no one clear melody, you just don't like 'em melodies, sure. But there are plenty of melodies in there, sometimes even four or so in counterpoint.

Posted by: acb Wed Jan 7 06:50:38 2004

But it's all so random that it doesn't count. Melody on a MBV recording is like the "life" you find on a dead dog that's teeming with maggots.

Posted by: Graham Wed Jan 7 11:39:42 2004

AFAIK, nobody said MBV were like the Seekers.

Posted by: darren Wed Jan 7 22:59:49 2004

Judith Durham:the Seekers now, I believe, which is an alarming bit of punctuation. And no one did say that MBV were Seekers-like, and neither did anyone say that melody was owned by vocalists.

Random isn't quite the word you're searching for. Kevin Shields is a walking name-check for all the big 60s song writers. He's quite deliberate about melodies - he was always pretty casual about vocals, but the melodies were there because they were meant to be.

According to MBV's own statements on their recording techniques, there are fewer guitar layers on any MBV recording than there are on your average "straight-forward" three-chord pub rock, and certainly fewer than any Slowdive album. It's just that what's there is delayed, reverse-reverbed and pitch-shifted. There really is less than it seems, and it's pretty carefully calculated. So it probably doesn't count because you find it annoyingly processed, not because it's random.

Of course, the irony in all this is that Slowdive started out as a sort of MBV-l

Posted by: acb Thu Jan 8 03:28:15 2004

Slowdive's "MBV-lite" material (if by that you mean the early EPs, and not some demos that haven't shown up on the P2P networks) is actually quite good, and better (IMHO) than MBV. Must be all those layers.

Posted by: kv http:// Thu Jan 8 11:08:53 2004

aw, i <3 mbv.

Posted by: Graham Thu Jan 8 13:42:07 2004

Underground Lovers are better than both, anyway.

Posted by: acb Thu Jan 8 13:45:37 2004

They weren't shoegazer though.

The best Australian shoegazer band I've heard was Swirl.

Posted by: Graham Thu Jan 8 14:20:50 2004

Well, just on the strength of "Your Eyes", I guess. I think they got bored with shoegazer, not surprisingly.

Posted by: acb Thu Jan 8 14:47:56 2004

Have you heard Swirl's _The Last Unicorn_? It's excellent.

Posted by: Graham Thu Jan 8 14:54:37 2004

I dunno. I think I got them confused with Glide and Ride and Curve somewhere during the early 90s.

Posted by: acb Thu Jan 8 16:06:24 2004

Except that they were from Sydney.

Who were Glide again?

Posted by: darren Thu Jan 8 21:41:28 2004

Swirl were good. Very good live band, too, although they always seemed to get stuck with doing supports. Glide was the bigger Sydney outfit fronted by the now-deceased William Arthur. Not as keen on them as Swirl. Didn't really like William Arthur's vocals. Jupiter were a good live band too, although the recorded stuff didn't quite do them justice.

Posted by: steve http:// Fri Jan 9 01:05:17 2004

i'd suggest some of the undies "leaves me blind" circa material is definitely shoegazeresque...

as far as australian shoegazers, there's a band from sydney called the the tides, who when i saw them with their full lineup had a bit of a shoegazer influence.

the last time i saw swirl they were absolute shit.

as for mbv vs slowdive... give me catherine wheel's first album anyday. mbv vs slowdive is no contest. mbv hands down.

Posted by: cos Fri Jan 9 03:11:10 2004

Hey, there's a piece on Mojave 3 in this week's Beat, and it mentions some new shoegazer compilation out on Inertia, called "Feedback to the Future".

Posted by: steve http:// Fri Jan 9 06:12:57 2004

sounds interesting... although i listen to mojave3 a lot more slowdive these days.