Lost in Translation (USA; 105 min.)


directed by: Sofia Coppola
starring: Bill Murray; Scarlett Johansson; Giovanni Ribisi
Lost in Translation
 
Bob G. says: "With LOST IN TRANSLATION, Sofia Coppola neatly captures the slightly Twilight Zone'ish feeling of being out of touch with everything and everyone around you. Yet she does so with such unassuming ease and good humor that you may not even be aware that such serious themes exist beneath the candy-colored surface of the film. As you marvel at Bill Murray's and Scarlett Johannson's seemingly effortless interplay, don't forget that their latitude is in part enabled by Coppola's script. It's strategic absence of conventional plot points leaves them miles of glorious space for emotional exploration and character development. If that weren't enough, Coppola's script is loaded with a non-stop parade of stranger-in-a-strange-land iconic imagery that you won't shake for days... such as the by now infamous Murray-on-the-hotel-bed shot." 5 cats
 
Clinton says: "At the end of LOST IN TRANSLATION, I turned to my friend. 'Isn't it amazing that life can be so beautiful and so sad at the same time?' Maybe it isn't the deepest sentiment, but it gives you an idea of the immediate feeling that Sofia Coppola's new film left me with. The film is a bittersweet delight, the story of two characters left alone in the middle of the strange city of Tokyo (no matter how cosmopolitan you are, Tokyo has to be one of the most surreal cities in the history of human existence) who find that despite their difference in age, they share a very real bond.

"Much like her first film, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, Sofia (forgive me for not referring to her surname too often - I actually like to ignore the pedigree of her father, that 'other' Coppola) takes her time letting the story unfold. In a series of wonderfully slow and panoramic vignettes (most of which are in lonely, cluttered high-class hotel rooms or in the even lonelier hubbub of the hotel bar) we are introduced to our two characters.
Bill Murray is Bob Harris, a Hollywood actor whose career isn't what it used to be, and who is now filming whiskey advertisements in Japan. His wife stayed behind in the states (their relationship reduced to a series of faxes and phone calls about picking carpet patterns) and, despite the best efforts of a team of perky Japanese handlers, he is befuddled by the customs of this strange land. Scarlett Johansson (from GHOST WORLD and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, and a Gertrudis award winner) is Charlotte, a young college graduate who is in town with her workaholic photographer husband. She is left on her own to explore the city and even though this strange new world is
fascinating, she finds that it leaves her dead inside (while tearfully expressing this to her mother over the phone, all she gets in return are platitudes of how she must be having such a good time on vacation). It's inevitable from the start of the film that these two lost souls have to meet.

"Murray is always in top form when he is amusedly confused, and LOST IN TRANSLATION gives him ample opportunity for wickedly funny subtle humor. But as Murray has grown older and lost his youthful smugness, he has unlocked a powerful tool in his pockmarked face and drooping eyelids. With merely a glance, and barely moving a muscle, he can express an almost infinite sadness lurking below the surface. Bob Harris is certainly the role of his career, similar to his come-back turn in Rushmore, but with more of that old Bill Murray sparkle just under the surface. Here he is a man who has given up on finding any joy in life, until he meets a young girl that reminds him
of life's possibilities.

'Scarlett Johansson is truly an amazing actress for her years. Only 19, she's one of the few young stars who can easily play over her own age (Kirsten Dunst being another, and she garnered serious acclaim for her role in THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. Here's hoping the same happens for Johansson). As Charlotte, she certainly has youthful enthusiasm, but it is the thoughtful and quiet moments that she can express even in the midst of a crowded nightclub that help us to see that there is so much more to her than one would expect (it's surprisingly easy to accept that her character studied philosophy in
college). Her situation is almost more heartbreaking than Murray's washed-up actor, as she is still young and with a life full of possibility, yet already feels like she's seen it all. It's not ennui, it's more like an acute awareness that things simply are not as wonderful as they once seemed, and will probably seem even less so as life goes on. This film truly belongs to these two actors (who improvised much of the script based on Sofia's script written just for them), and their chemistry and the subtle way they play off each other is so delightful that it damn near made me swoon at times.

"Despite what it sounds like, Lost in Translation is no May-December romance. It's a love story, to be sure, but it isn't about physical love, its about that almost transcendent feeling that can come between two people when they know that they really understand each other. But even more than that, they act like mutual healing elixers, filling each other with a vigor for life that was missing before. Without stating the obvious, Sofia has beautifully defined what happens when two souls connect, and what makes the film such so touching is that we know this in not a friendship that is going to last. The combination of circumstances are ninety percent responsible for bringing these two together - but once that is gone their bond will be too. Both
married, and with such an age difference, it is obvious that the friendship (tinged with a stilted romance) is bound to sink over time rather than swim. It's bittersweet because we love these characters, and I for one wanted to spend a lot more time with them, but we know that it is for the best that they pull apart. Maybe that is what life is really about - those small fleeting moments, those brief intense friendships. They are what can fill us with the strength we need to return to our day-to-day lives.

"I heard one viewer comment that the film's only flaw is that it makes all Japanese people look comical. I have to disagree. One look at the American characters in the film (a completely spacey Hollywood starlet, a trying-to-be-sultry yet terrible lounge singer (who's fusion-easy-listening band plays the most God-awful covers in the hotel bar), and Giovanni Ribisi as Charlotte's almost criminally unaware husband) shows that it isn't just one culture that is ridiculous - but the whole darn world. And that's the
point. These two characters are the only people in this cinematic world who seem to make any sense. It makes their connection all that much stronger and more natural. Sofia, if anything, is fascinated by Japanese culture, and this film is a much a valentine to the city of Tokyo as it is to friendship. It is also a visually stunning look at Japan, thanks to the beautiful lingering cinematography of Lance Acord, not yet a huge name, but with films like BUFFALO 66, ADAPTATION, and now LOST IN TRANSLATION to his credit, definitely a talent to watch.

Go see LOST IN TRANSLATION, do it now. See it alone, so you can wander the streets in quiet thought for hours afterwards. Or bring along that platonic friend who you still feel a strange sexual tension with, even though you're certain nothing will ever come of it. You'll have a lot to talk about afterwards."
 
Diane says: "Murray, whom I really don't like, was perfect for this role. The film was nothing more than I expected--the tone of the relationship between Murray and Johansson was established early on and didn't change." 3 cats
 
Esme says: "This movie kept unfolding in my mind long after it was over. My favorite parts were Bill Murray singing Elvis Costello, them lying in bed--just hanging out, and his whisper in Scarlett's ear. I love Bill Murray, really, love him." 4 1/2 cats
 
Howard says: "Sofia Coppola's tale of friendship and loneliness is a near pitch-perfect film and the best I've seen so far this year. It's also Bill Murray's best performance. He is nothing short of amazing playing a has-been actor with whom the Japanese are still
infatuated.

"The story takes place over a week period in Tokyo as we are introduced to Bob Harris
(Bill Murray) and Charlotte, played with much maturity by Scarlet Johannson. They are
both stuck in a culture they don't understand and marriages they aren't sure are
working anymore. Charlotte's husband (Giovanni Ribisi) is a photographer who is
always on a shot and leaves her in the hotel to fend for herself.

"She wanders around Tokyo and Bob keeps himself in the hotel bar where Charlotte
finally bumps into him and a friendship is slowly developed. This friendship saves
them from the aching loneliness visually displayed by Sofia in long, beautiful shots of
Johannson sitting in the hotel window looking out over the sprawling metropolis of
Tokyo and Murray trying to find anything on Japanese television he can connect with.

"Don't get me wrong. This is not a downer movie. It is one of such various and vast
emotions that I'm surprised Sofia fits them in to one little movie. There are moments
of great laughter and joviality such as the 'gift' that is sent to Bob's room. But even
when when Charlotte and Bob's adventure begins it is quite apparent they are still not
truly happy especially when they end up at a Karaoke bar and you get to see Murray's
character singing Roxy Music's heart-breaking 'More Than This.'

"Some people may find the slight fun poking at the Japanese a little too much, but it's
meant to show just how different their culture and ours are so different. A few scene
are down right gut-busting and others just drive the character's actions as they try to
something to hold on to they can identify with. It's an amazing cornucopia of events
and emotions.

"I found out, too, that Sofia went to Tokyo many times with her father, Francis Ford
Coppola (you may have heard of him), and I wonder if they story is somewhat
autobiographical. Did she met a has-been actor when she was left behind in the
hotel room as her father went off to do some film work? Either way, Sofia has made a
small masterpiece that proves that she did indeed get the filmmaker gene." 5 cats

And in response to Nathaniel T.: "I knew I was missing a couple things I wanted to write about in that review. Thanks, Nathaniel. The movie haunted for days as well and I still think about it on occasion. Especially about short-lived, but intense friendships I've had over the years.

"And you're right about the film being very Asian. Like most Asian film of late, Translation wasn't afraid to have its quiet, introspective moments like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, THE ROAD HOME and SPIRITED AWAY. A lesson well learned by Sofia."

 
Michael says: "Despite the advance hype, LOST IN TRANSLATION lived up to my expectations, securing a place in the top narrative films of the year. Really, Sofia Coppola's sophmore film was my type of film. Moody, atmospheric, bittersweet, and oh-so interior. These are some of my favorite elements of any film. With THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, Coppola showed herself adpet at creating and sustaining mood, as well as working well with actors. With LOST IN TRANSLATION she does all that, and adds a thoughtful, compelling story of the clash of different cultures, intertwined with a lovely and unusual relationship between to characters.

Bill Murray is terrific as Bob Harris, a actor once famous for action films, who is still beloved in Japan where he is working to endorse some whiskey. His relationship with his wife is strained. While she remains at home caring for their children, she only seems interested or capable of discussing the remodelling of his study. Their relationship seems encapsulated by their telephone exchange, 'Bob, should I be worried about you?' To which Bob replies, 'Only if you want to be.'

Two-time Chlotrudis winner Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte a young woman slightly adrift in Japan while her photographer-husband is working. Recently graduated from college with a degree in philosophy, and married for two years, Charlotte is at that difficult stage between student and adult, where possibilities seem both endless and stultifying.

Faced with a culture so different from their own, where surroundings and behavior seem outlandish, and chasing the ever elusive sleep of the jet-lagged, Bob and Charlotte slowly and awkwardly come together and connect in a way that neither of them can truly understand.

Watching LOST IN TRANSLATION is similar to listening to a particularly evocative album by a favorite band. There are extended periods of quiet reflection, sudden outbursts of joy or excitement, and lots of dry humor, expected where Mr. Murray is concerned. The actors are in top form, with Bill's craggy face clearly conveying his boredom, frustration and pain. Scarlett matches the veteran actor with a largely interior performance as she wanders the city searching for inner direction. Scot and I were marvelling at the change in the young actress' vocal ability. Where previously her voice was deep, gravelly, and usually sarcastic, here she discovers a wide range to accomodate her characters churning emotions. It is almost musical in its delivery. Johansson looks to be maturing into a great, dramatic actress.

Cinematographer and camera operator Lance Accord captures the high-tech, frenetic, and alien city of Tokyo, the lonely sterility of elegant hotels, and the tranquil beauty of buddhist temples with consummate ability. Coppola's ear for music is superb, with both original music by Air, and other selections, including selections both poignant and humorous during some karaoke sequences perfectly matching the visuals and story. There's definitely a strong talent for the craft of filmmaking in Sofia. It's amazing to see how mature and well-rounded it has emerged so quickly." 5 cats
 
Nathaniel T. says: "I concur with Howard, LOST IN TRANSLATION is a mini-masterpiece. I don't know if I've mentioned this to my fellow Chlotrudis members, but I am not a
big fan of Mr. FF Coppolla, but his daughter's films seem to be more up my alley. I didn't love THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, but I saw a lot of tempting promise in it. LOST IN TRANSLATION, however, is almost impossible for me NOT to love.

"I found myself enjoying the film while watching it, but not really loving it, but afterwards, I found it haunting my thoughts. The film seems tragic, but it is so incredibly hopeful in little ways, that I can't help but feel that it is, for lack of a better word, uplifting. The pseudo-romance is one of the more interesting relationships put on American film in a long time, and the performances are superb. Coppola's film reminds me of the best recent Asian cinema. Not just because it takes place in Japan, but also
because of the tact and restraint in not only the screenplay and performances, but in the visuals and themes as well.

"As for potential nominations, I see a Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Actor and Best Actress bids from me. I hope that the rest of the organization gets a chance to see this wonderful film." 4 1/2 cats