Lost in Translation [WS]  (REGION 1) (NTSC)
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Average customer rating:
3.55 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : B00005JMJ4
Manufacturer : Universal|
Release data : 03 February, 2004
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The Coppolas in Translation
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) are two lonely people stuck in the same Tokyo hotel. Harris is working on a whiskey commercial, seemingly estranged from his wife in the States. Charlotte's photographer husband leaves her alone while out doing photo shoots. Eventually the two meet and slowly become friends. There's not a great deal of dialogue, but what is said is true and from the heart. This is definitely not a 'plot-driven' story. The visuals are interesting, but not unique and filmed nearly like a travelogue. There could have been more attention given to the editing, which at times seems choppy and inappropriately mixed. However, the sound is crisp and cleverly portrays the modern soul of Tokyo. This is an experience that needs to be taken in slowly to appreciate the moods and emotions that are almost too subtle. It is not a far stretch to imagine that Director Sofia Coppola probably took most of these dialogues form her own conversations with her father Francis. The relationship between Bob and Charlotte is part soul mate and part paternal. There is no sexual tension between the two and that makes this film separate from most Hollywood fare. Some of the episodes with Bob and the Japanese people were on the edge of condescension, with more than enough confusion on how the Japanese cannot speak proper English. It was overly used and an inappropriate motif. However, that's not enough to override the atmosphere of the film. As a complete experience, "Lost In Translation" works, if only for it's consistency.
I think that this is a wonderful, sophisticated, highly cine-literate movie although it is clearly not for everyone.
The plot, to the extent that there is one, is simple: Bob Harris (played by Bill Murray) is a fading movie star taking a fat pay check to advertise whiskey in Japan. His marriage has grown stale (he and his wife seem to only communicate about soft furnishings), his kids do not need him, he hates himself for selling out (doing adverts rather than real acting). He is jet-lagged, unable to sleep and hopelessly confused by Japanese culture. Charlotte (played by Scarlet Johansson) is the young wife of a trendy photographer, who unable to decide what she wants to do with her life, has tagged along on an assignment in Tokyo and now finds herself effectively abandoned with little to do. The two leads are unhappy and lost before they even arrive in Japan, the Japanese culture, the jet-lag and the insomnia simply exacerbate these feelings of confusion, isolation and dissatisfaction. The film is the story of them finding solace in each others company. The plot is not really important; this is a mood piece about dislocation and alienation.
The film is very well made, if a little over pleased with itself at times, and demonstrates Sofia Coppola's strengths as a director. It is very good at capturing the problems of hotel living and the impact of an unfamiliar culture, although it is undeniably snippy about Japan and the Japanese (leading to some of the accusations of racism). It is also rather snide about actors and celebrity culture, the vacuous starlet (said by some to be based on Cameron Diaz - although Sofia Coppola denies this) that Charlotte's photographer husband (obviously based on Spike Jonze) pays too much attention to is well observed and very funny. However, the real strength of the film lies in the performances of Murray and Johansson. Murray has never been better: he captures the ennui of a successful middle aged man who has lost control of his life and is simply going through the motions. In my opinion he deserved an Oscar for this performance, but the voters clearly favour histrionics over subtlety. Johansson is also excellent in a difficult role - her character could have been rather wan and annoying but she manages to build an interesting and sympathetic portrayal of a young woman struggling to make the transition from university life to the real world.
Described by some as a 'Brief Encounter' for the new millennium - it will either grab your attention completely or it will leave you cold. Unlike some reviewers I do not believe that you need to have visited Japan to 'get' this film (it will help you get a couple of the jokes) but a familiarity with business travel and hotel living does help. I suspect that one's enjoyment of this film can be determined by the extent to which you can identify with the two leads - I am old enough and cynical enough to be able to identify with Murray but young enough to remember the feelings of confusion of the recently graduated and hence able to identify with Johansson. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I love this film.
swathes of melancholy
i have rarely found myself identifying so emotionally with the work of Hollywood royalty, but here i see the potential that ms coppola could quite soon outshine her illustrious father and her equally lauded cousin.
it is a little troubling to explain the qualities that elevated lot in translation for me, but the lead performances are not a bad place to start. at first i found the casting a little peculiar, bill murray as a hollywood action film star having a mid-life crisis and tying up the final pay days at the end of his career? not really an obvious choice. And scarlett johansson, well, seeing her as intellectual 20-year old isn't easy. but the effortlessness of the two leads belies an astonishingly accurate and sympathetic portrayal of the two characters. giovanni ribisi is as adaptable as ever and pulls off those astonishing sunglasses with surprising ease!
but coppola is not necessarily blessed, it seems she has teased the best bits of her location, her editor, her actors and her cinematographer because everything fits together beautifully and moves seamlessly from encounter to encounter. bill murray's expressions in the lap-dancing club, johansson's melancholic meanderings through beautiful japanese parks and buddhist temples were some of the highlights for me and the excellent choice of music did the imagery no harm whatsoever.
what finally won me over was the concept of it all. i find the idea of taking people out of their comfort zone and asking them to react to new surroundings or new cultures endlessly fascinating. in this case, it is two americans dropped in the most foreign of asian cultures and being isolated so that they must ask thequestions that appear to have been haunting them. but this is more than just a study, it is also the suggestion of something sad and something bautiful always going hand in hand. perhaps that, though everything seems wrong, there is hope in each other, there is hope in something with which we dont yet identify.
i can see that this won't appeal to every audience, it plays more arthouse than hollywood, more foreign film than american. but those are not criticisms for me and i had the pleasure of sitting back and immersing myself in the swathes of melancholy that seem to surrond the characters, like a humid, pervasive climate. i'm not sure if that counts as entertainment? but i certainly found it moving, and that, to me, is the mark of something wonderful indeed. i would recommend 'the unbearable lightness of being' as something evocative of similar emotions. it is certainly a marked improvement from 'the virgin suicides'.