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I was just like every other curious American filmgoer a few months ago
I went and saw Lost in Translation for the first time. That's right, I
wanted to know what in the hell was so great about the movie that critics
were calling possibly the best of the year and a modern masterpiece. I saw
Translation for the first time and liked it, but didn't really know what
they saw in the movie that was so beyond-belief spectacular. But alas, I
believe that every movie deserves a second chance (i.e. - the miracle of
hating Moulin Rouge on round one and having it shoot near the top of my
favorites of all time a year later), so just recently I sat down and
experienced director Sophia Coppola's Lost In Translation
Lost in Translation tells the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray in a role tailor-made, if not even Heaven-sent for him), an American movie star that comes to Tokyo to film a whiskey commerical for which he will be paid 2 million bucks. Staying in the same Tokyo hotel is Charlotte (Scarlett Johanssen, radiant and mature at only 18), a newlywed tagging along with her rock photographer husband, John (a typically awkward Giovanni Ribisi). Along the way, Charlotte and Bob run into each other and begin a 'brief encounter' that profoundly affects them both.
When the movie hits you right, it's a pure pleasure from its unassuming start (a beautifully lit shot up Johanssen's underwear-clothed behind) to its ambiguous but meaningful ending. It begins as a comedy of culture clash, Harris sarcastic and confused at the Japanese when entering his hotel, and even more befuddled in a hilarious scene where he shoots the whiskey commerical (and one later during a photo shoot). Coppola delivers Bob into her movie with the impression that it'll be all about him (he has plenty of great scenes, even at just the beginning), but Charlotte enters the story, and we're never quite the same. Scarlett Johanssen plays Charlotte with just the right amount of emotion that her initially morose and soul-searching character doesn't seem silly. At one point, she tearfully admits over the phone, "I don't know who I married." This may come off as silly, but consider her position: far away from home, newly married, in a big intimidating city, and her husband is away on a photo shoot. Bob, on the other hand, seems to have it made, but Murray lets a current of loneliness run across that memorable face that seems to hint at something more. He gets comical faxes from his wife about bookshelves and carpet samples, but he gives off the impression that he's come to the point where he doesn't even care anymore. Bob is certainly alone for a time in Tokyo, but Murray gives off the impression that things at home aren't too hot either.
For the first third of the movie, director Coppola displays her first brave choice in filmmaking by keeping Bob and Charlotte apart. During this time, the smooth, languid pace of the film falls into place, and by languid I don't mean 'boring.' Upon my first viewing of Translation, I wasn't convinced of Coppola's choice to keep the movie so predominantly low-key, but I've realized that there's a reason for it. The movie sustains this amazing vibe that doesn't stunt its progress, but propels it with a driving fluidity. A few times, though, Bob and Charlotte do see each other without officially meeting. One time in particular occurs in a crowded elevator - the two glance at each other, faintly smile, and possibility is born. The first section of the film doesn't just serve to show its two characters completely apart - it makes you think of how many life-changing connections you've missed in the past by just being passive and solitary.
Coppola successfully juggles Bob and Charlotte apart, but when they do meet, it's pure magic. They begin voyages out into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and the film almost takes on a perspective that differs from its earlier view. Before, we saw Bob Harris and Charlotte, respectively, at their most private and vulnerable. While out on the town, the film seems to sit back and just let them have fun. Thank God, for Bill Murray's rousing rendition of Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" is a blast. During this time, it seems that Bob and Charlotte have forgotten their insomnia and loneliness, but it's not gone forever. Even during their night on the town, we see moments where they sit silently, pensive and confused. The movie is a comedy in some sense, but it escalates into a pervading tragic feel. At one point, Charlotte says to Bob: "Let's never come back here again, because it will never be as much fun." I was struck deeply by this because, well, they had fun, but only in the sense of putting off more loneliness and desperation.
The movie takes a while to truly glean out the deep-seated motivations of both of its characters, but they become fully-realized in a marvelous scene where Bob and Charlottelay fully-clothed in bed together. Here, they handle the 'big' questions in life, and not "Where did you go to college?" or "What did you want to be when you were little?" but "What is my purpose?" and "Does marraige get easier?" I was amazed at the honesty of the character's responses. Bob relates to Charlotte the experience of having children and the ongoing struggles of marraige, but a tinge of fear and apprehension runs through his speech. Charlotte hasn't really figured things out for herslef yet - she says she's tried just about everything but hasn't found that niche. Coppola's screenplay takes these two separate beings, far apart in age and experiences, and makes a profound statement - both are in the same exact emotional limbo. Charlotte is confused and worried, but Bob is regretful and washed-up. In a way, these two are some form of deeply odd soul-mates. That is the heart and soul of Coppola's amazing work.
I couldn't end this review without mentioning another star behind the scenes of the movie that is nearly as effective to the film as Director/Screenwriter Sophia Coppola. That is cinematographer Lance Acord, who should just start writing his Oscar acceptance speech now. He has worked on Coppola's husband's (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze) films before, but this is his finest, most beautiful work yet. He captures Japan, and the film's characters, with such a soft-but-colorfully-abstract flare that it's nearly inexplicable. I often wondered why, beyond the fact that they have so much to think about, Bob and Charlotte (especially her) are seen staring out windows so much. If they see Tokyo with the same awe-inspiring glow that the film does, they have no better reason.
Perhaps the movie didn't sit as well with me the first time because I kept attempting to figure out what the movie was. It has great comedic flair with Murray's wonderful work, but it's also perhaps one of the saddest and most moving films I've seen in a long time. It's some form of a romance, too, but it's not about when they'll kiss or when they'll hit the sheets (one kiss on the cheek becomes unbearably awkward). It also has that Affair to Remember vibe too, where the journey of two souls that find comfort will eventually have to come to an end. Its end, though, defies classification, as does the rest of the film. Many times during the film's quaint, quietly moving finale, I expected lush music to start playing to underscore the escalating sadness of the film. It doesn't. Coppola simply lets her two amazing leads do the work. When the film does arrive at its final, ambiguous moment, it all just seems perfect. The catchy Japan-pop soundtrack that runs brilliantly throughout the film begins to play, and I find myself with a huge regret: that I won't be able to savor the subtle chemistry of Bob and Charlotte, and that a flat-out masterpiece in American film is at its end.
Few movies make you THINK long after they end. That's OK. Movies are
supposed to entertain and most do so without requiring even one ounce
of thought. It's sad that maybe some of you out there prefer movies-
and life- that way. Thankfully this movie is all about thinking and
feeling. This is not a chick flick. It's a human experience flick.
This film examines and lays bare the intricacies of love, life and loneliness; the claustrophobia, insomnia and disorientation of traveling to a foreign country. The loneliness that creeps in after life's normality starts to wear thin. The spark of promise that meeting someone new brings. This is what life is about and what this film so flawlessly portrays.
How many of you can relate to and have actually been that guy/girl on business, in the hotel in some foreign city, happily married yet feeling alone and beaten by life's banality? How many of us have been tempted in that very situation, to stray from the confines of moral adherence for the lure of a forbidden, if fleeting, joy? How many have felt that tingle- that spark- when a stranger smiles and you think, "you know, in another life..."? Change the time, place and all of us have been there whether we admit it or not. Maybe single people don't get this movie; maybe it's for those of us who have walked down that aisle and are wiser to the realities of life.
The characters here are true. Their dialog is true. The setting is true. It's all tirelessly fascinating because we can all relate to it and it involves us in a way that most movies do not. We find ourselves drawn to every moment these two experience together and apart. We are intrigued by the glances, nuances and words they share.
Johanssen is brilliant and beautiful as the lonely, young wife questioning her marriage. Her beauty is classic, not necessarily sexual, though she is obviously alluring in this role. Her bee-stung lips, perfect body and haunting eyes may have something to do with that. Still she's more sophisticated beauty than mindless hottie, even at 19. This is a role tailor-made for her. It could never have been Reese Witherspoon or Jessica Alba or - God forbid- Jessica Simpson, or anybody else in that realm.
Murray is simply at his best. He does "exasperated, middle-aged and depressed" better than most, with his receding hairline and frumpy body. You really believe that these two could connect in a physical and emotional way, as remote as that may seem on the surface. What other 50-something could ever be believed to be appealing to a young woman as pretty as Charlotte? That's a tough chemistry to fake and I can't think of a more perfect pair. What drives them to this attraction is what's intriguing to watch.
Go see this. Turn off your "Major Blockbuster-Tom Cruise-Action-Pop Culture Catch Phrase-Big Star" mind and tune in with a more searching self. Watch this with your soul and heart, not your eyes. If you look deeper than the surface you'll find yourself moved by the whole experience. Yes, it's THAT good.
When I used to think of what made a good movie, I would look at a movie
from all aspects: direction, cinematography, editing, acting, story
etc. The sum of all these parts make up the whole, and are also what
lead me to my opinion of a film...
Then came Lost in Translation. The first time I watched this movie, I felt a strange sense of depression that lasted for a few days, but I couldn't put my finger on why. I watched it again and again, and felt the same way each time. I thought maybe it was because I have never traveled and would really like to, or that I have the desire to find the perfect woman in a strange world.
Whatever the case, I realized one thing. LOST IN TRANSLATION MADE ME THINK. It made me question my life, its purpose, whether I was happy or not, and what I want do with it. Never has a movie touched me in such a way, and for that reason, this is the one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. That doesn't mean its the best movie ever made, in fact, I can name many that are technically better than this film, like the one I named before. But I cannot name a movie that has had more effect on me than Lost in Translation, and that is why I love it and will love it forever.
Think of the last movie that really made you think, one that had such a great influence on you that it somehow changed your life, even for the littlest bit. That, to you, is a great movie...
It's very interesting to see all of the ratings that Lost In
Translation received in different countries. In Canada it is only PG,
while in America it's rated R! And really, the only explanation for
this is a brief scene at a strip joint that shows some nudity. I really
look down on that R rating because Lost In Translation is a
good-hearted film that should be enjoyed by all ages. Notice how during
the 2003 Oscar season two films played the "only one special effect:
the effect on the audience" card; one being this film and the other
being Mystic River. Both are great films, both are rated R in the U.S.,
but only one of them can carry along its story without brutal murders.
So what can I say about Lost In Translation that hasn't been said a million times already? It's all true. It's subtle, down-to-earth, and allows the audience to observe and relate to the characters, Bob and Charlotte. Both of them have a life crisis to deal with, and I guess if you're thousands and thousands of miles away from your problems it makes it easier to take an objective look at them, even if they do follow you. Bob and Charlotte confide in each other and develop a relationship. That's what it's all about, and every scene is precious. It's a real and true to life kind of film. We never hear the lines: "Oh, Charlotte, I'm so glad I went to Japan. You've changed my life in such a profound way and you'll always be in my heart." That's because that just isn't the way it goes in real life. The feeling is there, the characters know it, the audience knows it, so it has to be left at that.
So, yeah, I love this movie. It's clearly the highlight of Bill Murray's career and marks the perfect first real stand-out in Scarlett Johanson's. It's so rare to see a movie that only has an interest in its characters (and only two of them, at that!) and makes them so charming, lovable, and familiar. This is a great example of non-Hollywood Hollywood films: the well-known actors and producers going to the roots of independent film-making. In an age where half the movies out there are packed with CGI, this is refreshing to see.
My rating: 10/10
It's been a long time since a movie has made me hurt the way this one did.
Perhaps "hurt" isn't the right word. "Ache" is more like it. I could so
completely identify with both characters.
Bob is a middle-aged actor caught in a life which has lost its zest and purpose, doing what he "ought" to be doing (making money doing whiskey commercials) instead of doing what he WANTS to do (plays). And then a young, beautiful, intelligent woman enters his orbit. On that level alone, with its mute longing and sexual tension, I can identify with him.
And then there is Charlotte, a student of philosophy seeking herself, her soul lost and adrift. She doesn't know who she is, doesn't know what she wants. Her life is a quest for authenticity of self. And I identify with her because so much of my life I have been seeking the same thing.
This movie isn't for everyone. They will call it boring, lifeless, limp. There are people, I realize, who have never experienced that kind of longing, who had never sought meaning in their lives, and searched for their own lost souls. They live for the here and now, without giving a thought to the spiritual aspects of life.
A friend said introverts will love this movie, extraverts will hate it. I think that is a fair surface assessment. This movie is all about the inner lives of two people whose souls connect for a brief time in an alien city. It is a love affair not of bodies, but of minds and spirits.
Some this movie will make angry. Some this movie will make weep.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To all those that have written negative reviews, are you all
die-hard/Disney/sci-fi addicts? Does a film not qualify to be
appreciated if it does not contain explosions, guns, huge CGI effects,
rampant sex ? Sit down, clear your mind, and re-watch this film, it is
a truly stunning cinematic experience. The crucial word in all this is
SUBTLETY. The explosions of colour and sound that are used to portray
Japan, are juxtaposed perfectly with the quiet, nervous, glances and
words shared by the main actors. You can almost see what they are
thinking, and read the confusion and turmoil that they are
experiencing, at the same time as the pure pleasure and enjoyment of
each other's company. It was clear that they both loved and cared for
their partners, but we have all experienced times when life is not how
we may have planned, and we may take pleasure in the company of others,
without giving in to animal instincts and jumping into bed with each
A simply beautiful and gentle movie, driven by huge stirring thoughts and undertones that are never verbalised, but just seem to hang in the air.
To all those who didn't enjoy it, I feel sorry for you that you didn't get it, maybe you're just not as in touch with your feelings as the rest of us.
This is a sensitive movie, and if you cannot be sensitive for a couple of hours you certainly won't get it.
And to anyone who thought this movie was racist regarding its portrayal of the Japanese, that is just pathetic. To westerners, Japan is a bizarre and wonderful place, and the society and people are just as bizarre and wonderful.
For anyone who wants a synopsis of this movie, the critics Ebert and
Berardinelli have excellent, complete reviews of 'Lost in Translation', and
they both give it their highest ratings.
My wife and I saw it tonight on DVD, with DTS 5.1 sound and both think it is a remarkable movie. I like Bill Murray in just about everything, and this will go down as one of his strongest performances, as Bob, the actor in Japan for a week doing whisky commercials. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, the young wife virtually abandoned in the city to do her own thing as her photographer husband (Ribisi) goes to various locations for shoots.
What I liked most was the realistic feel. Being in a strange city, with unusual customs and a language you have no hope of understanding. Meeting someone who because of circumstances (age, marital status) will only ever be a friend. Being able to talk freely. Reflecting on where we've been and where we might be going. Many of the negative comments about this movie relate to an impression that it is 'boring.' I'll put on my 'maturity hat' and state that anyone who thinks 'Lost In Translation' is boring simply was not able, at least while they watched it, appreciate the inner beauty of this movie.
The scene that made the whole story come together for me was when they were in one of their hotel rooms (doesn't matter which), overhead shot, they were in bed talking, fully clothed, he is on his back staring at the ceiling, she is on her side, eyes probably closed, the tips of her feet barely touching the side of his leg, and he moves his hand and puts it on her feet. Then the scene fades to black. It is the kind of tender, non-sexual touch that tells us how close they have become, and that theirs is a relationship of mutual trust and admiration, not one of lust.
People like Bob and Charlotte really exist, and they really do meet up in very similar situations. After a week, they must go their separate ways, he to his family and activities of his kids, she to wait for her husband and figure out how to get out of the rut. We sense that he does not love her they way she needs, and we wonder what will happen.
Death in Vegas' spellbinding song "Girls" perfectly sets the tone for
Sofia Coppola's second feature film, the bittersweet, intelligent,
mature and absolutely wonderful Lost in Translation. Trying to
summarize the movie is almost pointless because the emotions the film
sparks within you (in my case, at least) can't be described in words.
The basic story follows Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte
(Scarlett Johansson), a washed-up, depressed actor and an emotionally
confused newlywed respectively, as they accidentally meet on Park Hyatt
Hotel in Tokyo. The two form an unusual bond, but a bond that is
infinitely stronger than that which they share with their respective
wife and husband (Charlotte's partner is a jittery photographer who
doesn't pay very much attention to her; Bob's better half keeps calling
him, pestering him about which colour they should choose for the carpet
back home). Bob and Charlotte's relationship is not really a sexual
thing so much as a matter of emotional understanding. They're both
stuck in life, unsure of what to do with the rest of it and certainly
not very satisfied with what they've done with it so far. It's very
touching to watch, in a refreshingly non-sappy way.
The film isn't all mid-life-crisis slit-your-wrists drama, though - it is also hilarious at many points, mainly thanks to Bill Murray, who turns deadpan exasperation into an artform in a role specifically written for him. The pressure on him is high because he is basically the heart and soul of the film, but he nails the part and he's so great I was really surprised to see that he was nominated for an Oscar (since the Academy rarely hands out awards to performances that are actually *good*). Scarlett Johansson is stunning and convincing in her role and more than holds her own against Murray. Giovanni Ribisi as the aforementioned dorky husband and Anna Faris as a brain dead actress are perfectly cast and it's hard not to hate them.
Sofia Coppola's direction is amazing, both stylistically original, passionate and spellbinding. There are many gorgeous images of Tokyo on display here and she finds the right balance between these eye-catching visuals, Murray's comedy and Johansson's angst. Her style is very different from her father's and shouldn't be compared. She clearly shows that she is fully capable of having a career of her own without putting her faith in Hollywood nepotism.
Favourite scenes? Bob's "Santury time" scene is pure comic gold, and the most emotional part, in my opinion, is the karaoke scene during Bob and Charlotte's night out, when Murray sings his version of Bryan Ferry's "More than this". The scene, the way I see it, says so much about the characters and what they're going through. In fact, I'd call it the most important scene in the entire film. Then again, maybe Sofia Coppola just wanted to hear Bill's awesome singing voice (he's actually really good!).
Overall the film is just perfect. The acting, the direction, the soundtrack, plot, themes, humour, visuals... what's not to like? I know some were turned off by the supposedly "slow" pace, which I just thought helped the movie become more captivating. The central relationship needs to take its time to feel realistic. Honestly, what do you want, car chases? It's an existential drama, not Run Lola Run. Sheesh.
For relaxing times... make it Lost in Translation time.
It is not easy to talk about "Lost in Translation". Sofia Coppola's
second film as a director is in part about things we never talk about.
While its two protagonists try to find mutual solace in each other,
their silence is as expressive as their words. This is a film that
believes that an individual can have a valuable relationship with
someone else without becoming part of that person's life. At 19 years
of age, I am not married but I can understand pretty well that it is
easier for a stranger with whom you share a moment in the bar or
corridor to understand your problems better than your husband or wife.
Here is an extract from Roger Ebert's great review of the film: "We all
need to talk about metaphysics, but those who know us well want details
and specifics; strangers allow us to operate more vaguely on a cosmic
scale. When the talk occurs between two people who could plausibly have
sex together, it gathers a special charge: you can only say "I feel
like I've known you for years" to someone you have not known for
In this marvellous story, the two lonely individuals that merge the illusions of what they have and what they could have are two Americans. The emotional refuge, Tokyo. We have Bob Harris (Bill Murray), and actor in his fifties who was once a star, and is now supplementing his incomes with the recording of a whisky commercial. On the other side of the telephone, a frightening reality: his wife, his sons, and the mission of choosing the right material for heaven knows what part of the house. When we consider Bob's situation, we realise that Lost in Translation is also a meditation on the misery of fame. Certainly fame has great (perhaps greater than disadvantages) advantages but then there are the obligations, the expectations...
We also have Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a woman in her twenties who is accompanying her husband, a photographer addicted to work, on a business trip. But it could said it is as if she is alone anyway. Her world, just like Bob's, is reduced to strange days in the bedroom, the corridors, the hotel's swimming pool, and the bar, the perfect destination for victims of sleeplessness and wounded soul. The bar is the place Bob and Charlotte meet for the first time. They talk, little, but just enough. Once their dislike for parts of their lives are established, they begin sharing times that feel dead to be able to feel alive.
Bob and Charlotte are souls in transition for whom, surrounded and confused by exotic rituals, and a different language, allows them a moment to lose their identities. Both characters provoke similar feelings form different experiences. There are no kisses or crazy nights between them, but only a shared intimacy in which a night out, a walk in the streets, a session of karaoke becomes a powerful expression of their affection an complicity. The relationship we all await only happens in our minds and the protagonists, whom we are not allowed to know everything they say and desire. Tokyo metaphorically speaking is the third character in the film. The bright colours, the noise of the city...just everything evokes the various spiritual awakenings of the characters.
It ends on a perfect note leaving the relationship of the characters undecided. A rare gem in modern day cinema.
I went through an array of emotions and expressions watching this film;
most of them centred around how bizarre I thought it was, yet it was
like a good book I simply couldn't put down even if the film itself
lived up to its title at times.
This is by far the best work Bill Murray has done, and it will be a pleasant surprise for many to see him find a new (to me, anyway) side to his ability as an actor. He captures the role with such precision that you don't realise this is the same guy who, dare I even mention it in the same breath, provided the voice of Garfield last year. You see a few traces of his characteristic smugness every once in a while, but by and large the Bill Murray you see is a lot more serious... and seriously damned good.
It's such a simple story... unhappy married man meets unhappy married woman in a place neither of them are familiar with, and suddenly realise that they're all the other has got at least for the time being. In an age where Hollywood is trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to scare and shock us with something new at every turn, Sofia Coppola takes what should be the premise for a typical chick flick and turns it into something that anyone who has ever experienced an emotion of any description can watch and appreciate.
A brilliant film in any language.
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