Look man, I'm a huge Bill Murray fan. I really am. The guy's hilarious. But I liked Simon & Garfunkel's version better.
While it may at first seem that this is a careless documentary that was thrown together quickly because of its unpolished feel and lack of sit-down interviews, that is one of the things that I liked the most about it. As the title implies, this is an on location documentary, it's a look behind the scenes, not a documentary about the making of Lost in Translation, although you get some of that, too. Whenever I watch these supplemental features that sometimes accompany movies on their DVDs, I am always mindful of the title of the documentaries because I think the title should be indicative of what is in the documentary itself, and in this case the title promises exactly what is delivered.
Take, for example, the documentary that accompanies the science fiction classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, which is called "Making the Earth Stand Still and yet has absolutely nothing to do with how the movie was made. It was a mediocre documentary at best even without considering the unsuitable title, especially considering that it was made for the DVD release of such a landmark film, so I was glad to see that what might even be called a crudely made documentary offered exactly what you expect, giving wonderful insight into the experiences that the cast and crew had on location in Tokyo making Lost in Translation.
This is what behind the scenes really means, it is someone running around during filming and production with a video camera, shooting basic footage of what goes on during the making of the movie and getting various, impromptu interviews with cast and crew about what they are doing that day and their thoughts about the filming process. It's unscripted, unpolished, and rough, but it's real. And that's what I like.
There's a great scene where they all go to an upstairs Starbucks in downtown Tokyo and pretend that they're ordering lattes so they can get a point of view shot from the window. That's the kind of tricks you have to pull to get a relatively low budget film made on a location like that, and I found it very interesting that that was how they captured a lot of their on location footage. There is another good shot of a sequence that is filmed in the subway, with Scarlet Johnassen getting on a real subway in a real subway station with real people going to or from work. This is a very difficult way to film, especially as far as getting people not to look at the camera.
Another of the interesting problems that they ran into was a typhoon, which was reportedly the biggest typhoon to hit Japan since World War II, and it was on course to go right through the heart of Tokyo right in the middle of production. The encounter was so close that they were concerned about people being able to get back to their hotels after the day's shooting was finished. I just finished reading Sidney Lumet's wonderful book "Making Movies," and he talks about all kinds of things like this happening during the filming of some of his movies. Whenever I watch these documentaries I always try to learn something not just about how a specific movie was made, but about film-making in general, and this one is a nuts and bolts tour of at least some parts of the film-making process.
There is also a hilarious scene with Bill Murray practicing his Japanese with a book called Making Out in Japanese (pun intended?), where he calls various crew members over to the table where he is giving his interview, asks them a question, and when they respond he says to them "Who do you think you're talking to?" in Japanese. You know this guy is just a blast to work with, and it's even funnier when he says it to crew members who can understand what he's saying.
I think that one of the things that I really liked about this documentary was the way that it was made, with just some video footage taken on set very simply but effectively edited together, especially because it is something that I could very easily have made myself, and have made similar documentaries before. This entire thing could have been made on the very computer on which I am writing this review. Besides that, I have some good friends who have been getting very involved with drift racing and I'm the official videographer. Recently they were invited to participate in what is called a Touge Showdown, in which two of the best drivers from Japan come to America to race four or five cars against each other and then rate them, so I've been editing a lot of Japanese footage.
Not that that matters, but the video that I made was a lot like this, because it was me running around with one of my video cameras shooting the making of the very professional videos that they make for broadcast in Japan. I had one camera, these guys had about 90, each probably worth as much as my car. It does not come out looking like a Hollywood film, but I really think that this is the most realistic and effective way to look behind the scenes of a movie.
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