The idea of something being lost in translation simply means that the full meaning of a word or phrase can sometimes be impossible to capture when translating from one language to the next. In the 2003 movie of the same name, directed by Sofia Coppola, there are a number of things that are actually lost in translation. There is a scene early on in the movie that I find to be hysterical, where Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray, is filming a commercial for Suntory whiskey in Tokyo. The director rattles off an entire paragraph in Japanese that gets translated into the following 9 words in English: “He wants you to turn, look in camera. Okay?” The look on Bob’s face is priceless, as is his response, and we quickly see that there will be a great deal of meaning that is lost as we go from from Japanese to English throughout the entire film.
The problems that the language barrier creates only skim the surface of the deeper sense of being lost that pervades the movie. Bob has a difficult relationship with his wife, who is constantly harassing him in one way or another via phone calls and faxes. He meets Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, in the hotel bar one night when they both can’t sleep. Charlotte is experiencing somewhat of an emotional crisis, and has been left in her hotel room by her husband John, a celebrity photographer from whom she feels very detached. Both characters are physically out of sorts in the whirlwind that is Tokyo, but they are also emotionally lost in their uncertainty as to where they stand with their current relationships. They begin a friendship, that could clearly become more, but does not end up traveling down that road. If it did, then their own connection would ultimately end up being lost in translation, as they shed the insularity of being in a foreign country and transition back to their ordinary lives in the U.S. Clearly there is a bond between them, however, and we get the distinct impression that their paths were meant to cross. They are two lonely and displaced individuals who provide comfort, validation, and companionship for one another during the few brief days they have together. Their relationship may not have been meant to last for a lifetime, yet it still has great meaning for them, a fact that they are both aware of and acknowledge as they say goodbye. Bob sees Charlotte again on the street as he drives to the airport. He jumps out of the taxi to follow her and embraces her one last time, while whispering something in her ear that we aren’t meant to hear. It belongs only to the two of them, perhaps because its meaning would be lost in whatever translation we would give his words.
For today’s cocktail, I focused on the color blue that is very prevalent throughout the movie and is in both the hotel bar where Bob and Charlotte meet, and in the wild and crazy dance bar they go to with Charlotte’s friends. The hotel bar is drenched in blue light that comes in from the huge windows that line the walls, and the dance club has large blue orbs suspended from the ceiling. This overabundance of blue is also very representative of the state of melancholia in which both characters seem to find themselves. For this reason, my first ingredient had to be Blue Curaçao. For my main spirit, I chose to go with a white rye whiskey from Bluebird Distilling, made locally here in Phoenixville, Pa., because I wanted it to symbolize the emotional rawness of both characters, and the fact that their connection would always remain unfinished and unaged. White whiskey also has a bite to it, as does loneliness. My final ingredient was Joto Yuzu Saké to celebrate the setting of the movie, and to provide a citrus component to balance the sweetness of the curaçao. The Joto Juzu blends the flavors of Meyer lemon, key lime, and mandarin orange together into something truly fabulous. This drink was a perfect example of the way in which ingredients can come together and blend magically, creating something that is more than just the sum of its parts, much like the brief intersection of Bob and Charlotte. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
Short and Sweet… and Very Japanese
Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Express an orange peel over the drink, twist, and garnish. Enjoy!
*Check Bluebird’s website for local availability.
**Both can be found at Traino’s in Marlton, NJ.