on 24 August 2014
I loved this movie, although I can see why it wouldn't't be everyone's cup of tea. Both leads excellent; really enjoyed Bill Murray's performance. A glimpse of Japan. Sensitive exploration of 2 people's feelings as they spend time together unexpectedly in an unfamiliar country. An unlikely pairing but one which reminds that there are so few times in life that you find someone with whom you gel completely. When you do, grab it ~ even if it's short lived. Moments of comedy are great and there are a few. Very poignant too. So glad I found this movie although I know I'm late to it. Coppola must be a genius!
on 29 January 2015
Je suis Lost in Translation, contrary to the most recent reviews. I worked once for a Tokyo-based company, and the film captures the quirkiness and strangeness of that city. The main characters' platonic relationship is funny and touching, and another star of the film is the hotel. Escapism worth watching.
on 5 November 2012
There are a lot of negative reviews for this film.
I loved it.
I have trouble putting my thoughts down into words, so Ill just say this; (Ive never used a semi-colon in my life, so I took a shot) If your'e an introspective, evaluative and emotional person who is possibly troubled by life, then you should watch this. If you aren't, stay away.
on 4 February 2016
It's a really great piece of art because a lot happens though very imperceptibly. I thought is was good fun when I first watched it, but on watching it again recently I realised that in this country (Japan) that starts as a figure of fun, there is incubated something very important. Call it love or connection or whatever, but it requires no mutual-instrumentalism, no physical attraction or intellectualism (in fact the shedding of intellectualism is one of the things that allows this important thing to be attained/recognised). And it allows two unhappy people to go on with their lives-apart from one another (because there was never any possibility of 'that' kind of love) with courage (which is a very Japanese idea). The alien culture allows this ...'thing', which is actually a positive rendering of essential humanity to be thrown into relief and if we start off laughing at Japanese culture, we end up swallowing our disdain as one of it's most disdainful manifestations -karaoke- ultimately becomes the means by which and the way it essential humanity is attained. That this seems to happen so naturally in the film is testament to Coppola's immense skill as a film-maker, She is no less talented than her father. I love Apocalypse Now and the Godfather but I think this film is a greater achievement than either of those celebrated movies. Personally I think the film is ultimately a myth, but it is a very believable one.
Well, this film certainly divides opinion? Here on Amazon, over 60% gave it 4 or 5 stars, however, 30% scored it with just 1 or 2 stars! I actually enjoyed it and thought it worthy of 4 stars. I found it very interesting, mildly amusing and the budding relationship quite captivating. For me the storyline is very simple.
Bob is never going to sleep with Charlotte? Whilst his marriage is as flat as a proverbial pancake, he does love and worship his children, who presumably are near to Charlotte’s age, and so he can easily relate to her, though he would never misplace that trust. He is not though, above cheating on his wife, with someone in his own age range, this takes him temporarily away from his humdrum existence with his wife, who half the time can’t even be bothered to talk to him for more than a few seconds.
The film still scores well on RT & IMDb. It was also a huge financial success, with a profit in excess of 100 million $!
Having watched the film, I did wonder what the Japanese thought of their portrayal? There was apparently some criticism of the perceived racism that the film may have characterized?
The screenplay won an Academy Award and both lead actors won Bafta’s for their fine performances.
Films are so subjective aren’t they?
After proving herself a competent director in her debut film, The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola returns with a much more mature and far more accomplished sophomore effort that suggests she is well on her way to surpassing her father, certainly in his more recent offerings. In stunning film of subtle simplicity she weaves a fragile and poignant friendship over a touchingly funny Tokyo background.
Lost in Translation is the tale of a chance collision between two souls feeling trapped in their lives and lost in a foreign world. Actor Bob Harris [Bill Murray] is endorsing a whiskey purely for the money although he enjoys the break from his wife, while Charlotte [Scarlett Johansson] is accompanying her neglecting husband John [Giovanni Ribisi], a photographer. Set against a delightfully colourful backdrop of Tokyo which provides much of the film's comedy, we watch the friendship between these two strangers slowly blossom into a delicate platonic romance.
While there is a distinctly melancholy tone to the film, it is not nearly as dark as The Virgin Suicides and instead portrays the redemption of its characters rather than their doom. Bob and Charlotte are drawn together by a sense of depression, both somewhat discontent with married life, disconnected from their partners, and feeling extremely lost in both Tokyo and in life. But these shared circumstances lead them to engage in those metaphysical conversations that can only occur between total strangers, since friends always wish to know the personal background. When asked by his wife, "Do I need to worry about you, Bob?" his flat response is, "Only if you want to". While in Charlotte he has found someone who will genuinely listen and also seeks to learn from his experience.
The stage is set for a perfect throwaway Hollywood romance, but the key to this film is that it never caters to what its audience expects and sometimes desires. The result is that some will find it frustrating to watch and without suitable conclusion. In fact, there is not even so much a plot as a series of carefully captured connections between the two leads and their separate journeys of self-discovery, making the affair more of a character-study. Combine this with an intentionally slow pacing, and the result is poetic work of rare beauty that will be difficult to appreciate for those who stick solely to traditional Hollywood fare.
Both leads turn in outstanding performances. Those who suggest this is Murray's definitive role are sometimes criticised on the basis that this is simply the same role he always plays. The key here is his handling in subtly underplaying the dialogue he is offered, most clearly visible in the kareoke scene where it would have been all to easy to go all out, but instead he remains perfectly in Bob Harris' reserved character throughout. Johansson's acting is brilliantly captured by Coppola, who seizes the smallest smile or subtlest inflexion of her voice and turns it into something both moving and beautiful. And it is such detail in its simplicity and lyrical beauty that raises this film far beyond most others, one such example being a scene with no dialogue where the camera pans slowly around Johansson sitting on the windowsill of her hotel room from where we see the sprawling vastness of Tokyo and Charlotte's confusion, displacement and sense of drifting without a word being uttered. Such moments are amalgamated with soft-focus close-ups, simple orchestral scoring and a lingering camera to hold a shiver-inducing ethereal quality.
Much of the film's humour comes from the culture-clash element we are shown as especially Harris stumbles through his job. The unsubtitled photo sessions allow us to share in his alienation, and while the film does sometimes softly poke fun at elements of oriental culture, it equally shows off the grandeur of Tokyo as a bustling and unparalleled urban metropolis. Murray's deadpan, "Am I drinking? As soon as I'm done..." and dour expression in numerous awkward situations are a mixture genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and touchingly tender.
The nature of the relationship between Charlotte and Harris is impossible to define but it is that quality which again raises this film above more standard romantic comedies with their clumsy manipulation of audience emotion in all-too-obvious tearjerking attempts. Here we are offered a rare glimpse in Coppola's very honest and pure depiction of this blossoming friendship which struggles in its fragility but is ultimately a positive experience.
There are some strange quirks to the film, such as the number of shots of Scarlett Johansson in revealing underwear. Of course, being a female director Sofia Coppola is able to get away with such things, but nevertheless it does eventually feel a little unnecessary unless it is intended to demonstrate vulnerability in her youthful beauty. Some of these quirks are wonderful however, such as the closing scene when Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear and we are never allowed to hear what is said. And yet it feels right that we are denied this, for it makes that momentary connection between them infinitely more intimate and we are instead left with an exhilarating curiosity as to just what it is he said that made her smile in that bittersweet instant.
Coppola has risen leaps and bounds with this incredible second film, a film that works through visual poetry where silence can speak volumes, an intensity in its characters and location, and its incredibly honest subtlety in the interaction between its characters. In its closing, just as in life, the leads don't solve all their problems and yet because of all they have shared, they feel a little better anyway, and in that profoundly bittersweet melancholia that runs throughout the film, so should the audience too.
on 17 July 2004
This is quite simply the best film I have seen for a long time. To me, it is more or less flawless, and it pains me to say it as I've always maintained that she has been riding on her father's reputation, but Sofia Coppola has done an extremely good job.
Lost in Translation follows two Americans, equally 'lost' both emotionally and literally in Tokyo, brought to together accidentally but quite possibly soul mates. The film follows their friendship and mutual alienation with both hilarious and heartbreaking results.
Bill Murray is always a pleasure to watch as he has one of the most expressive faces of any actor working today and he is just excellent in this. I'm not surprised he was miffed at missing out on the Oscar. Similarly I was really impressed by Scarlett Johansson, who is far more deserving of the praise being lavished on Keira Knightley these days. The chemistry between the two leads is at times both electric and tender, translating the ambiguous relationship and common disillusionment between them.
Everything about this film fits together to make an absorbing and atmospheric whole. The soundtrack is brilliantly eclectic, from My Bloody Valentine to Elvis Costello to Air. Music plays such a central role in the film, highlighting the very different aspects of Tokyo and the characters experience there whether it be in the karaoke booth or the clubs or the temple Charlotte visits.
The cinematography is equally stunning and eclectic, ranging from the awesome sight of the Japanese mountains to the technological wonderland that is the city centre. It is parlicularly affecting the way it skips from the domineering (such as the skyscrapers and amazing views from the hotel windows) to the intimate (the sushi bars and the tranquil inner city paradise Charlotte explores).
Without a doubt, 5 stars, this is as good an exploration of human love and loneliness as I've seen.
on 21 August 2007
A lot of people claim to have not enjoyed this film due to its lack of plot. Well, I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing, as the film is plainly focused on the relationship between the two main characters, two people who would never normally have reason to socialise.
The story is a peek into the lives of two very different people who are trying to survive the boredom and frustration of being in a place where you have virtually no one to communicate to. It's a shame that a lot of the reviews here do not rate the great subtleties of this movie.
If you have watched this film and didn't enjoy it then it just wasn't your thing. It doesn't mean it's a bad film. I personally felt very moved, amused and thrilled after seeing it.
Bill Murray remains a genius when it comes to this type of role, his ablibing ability is something to treasure, and it was surprise to see him being so effective in this kind of dramatic role, rather than the comedic performances we are used to.
on 20 November 2007
Lost in Translation does something few other American films do (Stillwell's Metropolitan is the other one), and that is to give us a drama that consists of silences and dialogue, with no action. Only the French (e.g. Rohmer) do this well and consistently. It makes for intelligent scripting, nuanced acting, and rivetting viewing. For older men (like myself) it sets out calmly and without too much emotion the dilemma of meeting someone who is right thirty or forty years too late. By setting this late love in such an exotic and alienating place (the hotel and Tokyo beyond it), there is no need to exaggerate the emotions of the two main characters. Those reviewers who have given the film one star may be lacking a maturity of understanding that a film like this calls for. If you like understated French cinema, you'll revel in this. If only Hollywood allowed more films of this genre to be made, its reputation would receive a huge boost.
on 16 January 2015
I first saw Sofia Coppola's 2003 love story Lost in Translation a few years ago and was distinctly underwhelmed. Seeing it again I now realize that while it has irredeemable flaws which definitely qualify the inflated critical praise this film has received, it is actually much better than I had thought. The narrative concerns two Americans stuck in a luxury Tokyo Hotel. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a semi-retired Hollywood actor in Tokyo for a week to shoot a whiskey commercial. Married for 25 years, he is in mid-life crisis. The geographical distance between himself and his family emphasizes the emotional chasm that exists between him and them. Suffering from terminal jet lag he parks himself for the week in the sprawling `New York bar' on the top floor of the hotel. Charlotte (a 17 year old Scarlett Johansson) has just graduated college and is in Japan with her workaholic photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi) who is on a fashion shoot. Left alone most of the time she contemplates the sad state of her 2 year marriage and reflects on the fact that she doesn't really know what to do with her life. Also suffering from jet lag she meets Bob in the bar. Two insomniac kindred lost spirits connecting, the two tentatively embark on a relationship.
What plot there is centers on little incidents, little adventures Bob and Charlotte share. They eat sushi, visit a hospital to sort out a suspect toe, have a night on the town with Japanese friends which involves drinking, clubbing and karaokeing, and (in the film's most moving scene) watch a movie together on TV (La Dolce Vita of course) in her room and talk about life and marriage which is anything but sweet for either of them. "Does it get better?" asks the young Charlotte. "No," is middle aged Bob's brutally honest first response before he launches into a moving equivocation. When I first saw this I was annoyed at what I saw as the empty vacuity of the film. Now I appreciate that this is an unfair assessment. While the film stays with the two characters, there is an aching vulnerability inside both which Murray and Johansson evoke with great success. Murray cashes in his slapstick inclinations for droll dead pan reactions which really carry the film. There are a couple of set-piece comic scenes where his wit sparkles - running through his repertoire of impersonations of famous people for a photo session and then wrestling with a manic exercise machine in the hotel gym which yabbers at him in Japanese as it escalates out of control. For the most part though he scores through dead-pan reactions off the actions of others, especially the old guy in the hospital waiting room who tries to talk to him in Japanese while a couple of old ladies sitting behind crack up.
Johansson is also excellent at conveying Charlotte's precocious wisdom (she's a philosophy graduate) which while clicking with Bob, clashes spectacularly with her husband and the immature actress Kelly (Anna Faris) who they meet in the hotel. Coppola's own Oscar-winning script is adapted to a series of semi-improvised dialogs and situations which delicately sketch out the perils of luxury hotel existence disconnected from one's cultural roots. The ennui is palpably caught here by the writer-director and her actors who clearly believe in their material and the love story is moving more for the potential of what `could' happen rather than actually what `does' happen. The sensibility is one on the whole much closer to European cinema than to American and it is cause for celebration that the film made a handsome profit in the States. Hopefully this heralds a decrease in the kind of sentimental push-button manipulative mush that passes for entertainment in most Hollywood love comedies these days.
Sad to relate despite my new appreciation of Coppola's handling of the central relationship, my biggest objection to this film remains and my recommendation must stay qualified. I am a long term resident in Japan and am fed up with the negative way the country is perceived in the Western media and in films such as this one. This view is essentially a polarization. On one hand we have the `good' old traditional Japan, the land of ancient temples, ikebana, Buddhist ceremonies, gardens, healthy food and Mt. Fuji. On the other hand we have the `bad' new Japan, the land of brash glaring neon lights, pachinko parlors, wacky game centers, karaoke dens, exotic titty bars, and OTT theme nightclubs. Unfortunately, Coppola captures too many clichés in this film which have been done to death elsewhere and purvey an image of the Japanese people as a wacky, way out, nerdy lot who are completely disconnected from their `good' cultural roots. Awful cringe-worthy scenes include a middle aged S/M hooker sent to entertain Bob in his room, a ridiculously camp TV show Bob has to appear on (most of which was mercifully cut as one of the deleted scenes shows) and a Star Wars fight exit from a club with people firing lazar lights of the kind I have never seen in this country. Charlotte takes the obligatory ride on the bullet train to Kyoto to cue up clichéd pictures of `old' Japan while Bob gets the rough treatment from a dictatorial commercial director who thinks he's Akira Kurosawa and barks his orders at Bob in rude commands which are (yes) lost in translation. The main problem as I see it is that the Japanese themselves churn out films and TV programs that encourage this polarized perception of their country which they know not to be the truth. So for them this film isn't offensive and can be released with barely a head turned. Viewed by audiences overseas who don't know the reality of every day life in Japan (which believe me isn't that different from life in their own countries) and such a polarization is taken as a gospel truth. This film isn't anywhere near as bad as most foreign views of Japan (for example, Fred Schepsi's abysmal Tom Selleck vehicle Mr. Baseball) and where it stays with the central relationship it barely goes wrong, but the view of the country remains sadly myopic even if one can make the argument that it simply shows Japan as how it appears to two people newly arrived in the place.
The quality of this Momentum DVD release is excellent, the picture (16:9 / 1.85:1 widescreen letterbox) admirably displaying Lance Accord's excellent cinematography which animated the Japanese crew by using very little artificial light, even on outdoor scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is crystal clear and showcases an excellently chosen playlist of 80s/90s pop songs. The final usage of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" resonates strongly in the mind after the film's moving conclusion. The disc comes with a feast of extras - a behind the scenes documentary, interviews with Coppola and Murray and deleted scenes. Probably if you are not familiar with Japan and are simply after a romantic comedy which is a bit different you will be won over by this film. Certainly fans of Coppola and the two lead actors should not hesitate...