From Roger Ebert’s Movie Answer Man @ rogerebert.com, 2003.
Q. I work at a local video store and the recent release of Lost In Translation on DVD has had lots of people asking about it. But I noticed that about 90 percent of the people that watched it said they didn’t like it. In fact, most of them said it was the worst movie they had ever seen. They didn’t understand why it drew all of the attention that it got.
Is this because of the expectations that the general public has in their minds? Was it over-advertised by the Oscar hype it got? Or is it just because the general public can’t watch a film that will challenge them to think when they are used to watching big-budget films where everything is drawn out for them?
Sean O’Connell, Novato, Calif.
A. Yes, yes, and yes. Lost In Translation requires audiences to be able to pick up feelings and information on frquencies that many moviegoers don’t receive on. Most of the movies people go to see are made in such a way that not a moment’s thought is required. The audience is a passive receptor for mindless sensation. When I’m told by people they hated Lost In Translation, I have to restrain myself from replying, ‘You are saying more about yourself than about the film.
Lost In Translation was applauded by 94 percent of the 190 critics monitored at rottentomatoes.com, and by 97 percent of the major critics. Does that mean critics are (a) out of touch with popular taste, or (b) have better taste than the customers of Sean O’Connell’s video store? Before you answer, remember that the mission of a good critic is not to reflect popular taste but to inform it.