photo manipulation by nacrowe
for me, SOFIA COPPOLA's acclaimed film LOST IN TRANSLATION (FOCUS FEATURES, 2003) is one of the few films that vividly evokes the displacement that occurs to one's psyche and sense of identity when being abroad. being a THIRD CULTURE KID growing up overseas i am acutely aware of that heightened sense of awareness, especially regarding mannerisms, patterns and thought processes given that happen when you are aware of your own foreignness to your immediate surroundings. it takes some getting used to and some people lose the plot along the way.
speaking of which, for me this film is much less about the plot as it is about that need for connection and sense of home when you are far from anything familiar. i've seen it play tricks on people, especially in PEACE CORPS were relationships happened out of seeming necessity, both partners connected by this unique experience with all the excitement and fear of their new predicament mirrored in a newfound affection. but once the situation normalized and became routine, these same people regretted these trysts as they were initiated during a moment of weakness and insecurity.
in the film, the two main characters find each other despite outside considerations like marital status or age difference. being in TOKYO somehow alleviates them of their past identity.
in my mind the film raises the question of the extent to which our individual identity is fluid and contextualized based on external cues. choices you would never make back home are presented anew in a foreign context.
having been home for 2+ years now since living abroad for 8, i have the opposite problem. its beyond reverse culture shock at this point, my normal is being in an unfamiliar surrounding. maybe that is why i gravitate to this film.
if you haven't seen it, definitely seek it out.
photo by nacrowe
during my undergraduate years at RUTGERS i wrote a senior thesis on film noir and a key feature of those films is a corrosive depiction of women as corrupters. often male protagonists impotently speak via voice-overs, attempting to frame a narrative that inevitably they were never able to control.
musician/artist/producer/fashion designer/actress/writer/badass KIM GORDON of SONIC YOUTH fame in her memoir GIRL IN A BAND (HarperCollins, 2015) in a similar fashion attempts to make sense and contextualize the trauma of her recent divorce. in an inversion of the film noir cliche i outlined above, her painful retelling of their doomed relationship if anything doesn't reduce her ex-partner and ex-bandmate THURSTON MOORE to that of a lazy literary trope. it is my understanding that her presenting this information was meant to accurately describe the insight gained from such a painful ordeal that ultimately deprived her a partner and collaborator and place it within the proper context of her upbringing and fraught relationships with her brother and father. unlike those noir films, her compassionate insights into these men ultimately humanizes them, especially MOORE.
what i really appreciated this book was her honesty. no doubt knowing her public image as an icon for female empowerment, the vulnerability she displayed in explaining why she found herself in the familiar trap of suppressing her ego for the men in her life is a daring move. you really get the sense of struggle throughout her entire music/art career. you also get a well-rounded, first-hand look at the early 80s concurrent NO WAVE music scene and burgeoning NYC art scene surrounding street art. she comes across a someone curious and relentlessly fearless in taking advantage of what opportunities came her way. she doesnt not come across as an opportunist, rather as a passionate curator constantly searing for new ideas and inspirations.
i feel a kinship with that as someone who grew up around unfamiliar people in unfamiliar countries. her upbringing in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA by way of brief stints in HONG KONG and HAWAI'I gave her something of a THIRD CULTURE KID vibe. they say THIRD CULTURE KIDS (children that grow up in a country not their own) are qualitatively better able to navigate life's upheavals, having dealt with such stress during their impressionable formative years. if anything, her curiosity for art, music, design, and love only get stronger as the narrative evolves, almost in contrast to the arc of her personal life.
i'm a fan of her work, both in and out of SONIC YOUTH and recommend this book highly for anyone interested in her career as well as anyone interested in the NYC art and indie music scenes of 80s and 90s by a big player in both. well worth it.
photo manipulation by nacrowe