Lost in Translation

 by Steven N. Levinson
April 14, 2004

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With the recent 11th hour defections of Adrian Fernandez and Bobby Rahal to the IRL/Honda money train, I couldn't help but sense the underlying parallels to last year's surprise hit film, "Lost In Translation".

In this brilliantly crafted and critically acclaimed film, the main protagonist played by Bill Murray is a 50 something Hollywood "leading man" whose career is clearly on the skids. In order to maintain his current life style, he accepts a $2 Million fee to appear as the spokesman for a Suntory whiskey commercial. In it, the tuxedo clad Murray raises a glass in toast and says something to the effect, "it's Suntory time". Easy money trading on your "past fame and glory."

As the film opens, a bleary-eyed and severely jet-lagged Murray is seen in his high tech luxurious room at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo's glitzy Shinjuku district. Unable to adjust to the time warp, he is alternately tossing and turning in bed, pacing the floor and making trips to the elegant bar/lounge until he is called for the commercial filming.

When he begins to receive a flurry of phone calls and faxes from his wife about "what color should we have for the new rug in the den", an intense process of self-examination and introspection about the meaning and quality of his life ensues. Whether peering into his bathroom mirror or hovering over a drink in the bar he begins to seriously question all of the basic assumptions of his personal and professional life.

He realizes that he is not gaining any satisfaction in his life. NONE. He accepts the painful realization that his $2 Million fee is really demeaning; that he is really prostituting himself for pecuniary gain; that his marriage has long since had any real emotional connection or meaning, and its only sustenance is for the sake of his children; that his career no longer involves real creativity or challenges. He is simply going through the motions on all fronts.

It is at this point during one of his many visits to the bar that he meets the lead female protagonist Charlotte, a mid 20 something neglected wife of a glamour/rock photographer. There is an immediate emotional and intellectual connection between the two as well as an underlying sensual tension. The two, out of mutual boredom and loneliness begin to explore the many attractions of the 24 hour neon lit strange and frenzied life of Shinjuku. They find a mutual emotional intimacy and share similar perceptions of the issues that they both face in their personal and professional lives.

And thus begins this amorphous undefined film that has no beginning and no ending, but leaves the audience intrigued, perplexed and "DEMANDING" either an ending, or at least that the couple (a la most formula films) consummate the "physical" and have the obligatory "Climax" so to speak.

What has this got to do with IRL at Motegi?   For that you would have to ask Adrian Fernandez, Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti and Robert Clarke.  Self introspection may very well be too much to expect for people whose only motivation in life appear to be the continuing pursuit for self indulgence and material gratification . Perhaps within the next 12 months when Honda and Toyota question their "motivations" for continuing participation in the IRL, "Self Introspection" may be imposed on Andretti, Fernandez and Rahal, for clearly, they are Lost in Translation.

The author can be contacted at SteveL@autoracing1.com

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