Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation; drama / tragicomedy, USA / Japan, 2003; D: Sofia Coppola, S: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Akiko Takeshita, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris, Fumihiro Hayashi
American actor Bob Harris arrives with a limousine to Tokyo. He is scheduled to film a TV spot for a drink, but is annoyed by the Japanese director who cannot speak English. Since he cannot sleep due to jet-lag, he often plays golf, swims in the pool and drinks in the bar. He meets another American in the hotel, the young Charlotte, who becomes his friend. Even though the are both married, they feel like soul mates. They travel around Tokyo, visiting bars and casinos. When Bob has to depart, he kisses her and whispers something to her, before leaving in the limousine.

The second film by Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation" was a phenomenally critically acclaimed achievement, with many naming it the best film of the year. Sofia again shows her sense for sensitivity, yet it was not developed more than her debut "The Virgin Suicides" since this film also suffers from lack of focus and empty walk. "Lost in Translation" is a film of the moment - it shows a deeply touching premise of two people in a strange land, slowly realizing they are soul mates, developing a deep devotion for each other that has traces of Platonic love - yet alas, it is much more interesting writing and analyzing that premise than it is to watch it on the screen. The leading role was played by the cult comedian Bill Murray who is in excellent shape, playing his character in a sustained manner, while his chemistry with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is the main virtue of the film. They both won a BAFTA award as best leading actor and actress. Murray also won the Golden Globe as best actor in a motion picture - musical or comedy, the New York Film Critics Circle Award and was finally nominated for an Oscar.

The film isn't centered around a story but about the interaction between the two characters, showing some delicious details (an animated dinosaur on the screen in the city square; Bob carrying a sleeping Charlotte to bed...), yet as a whole the film loses its courage. Namely, it has too much banal humor that does not seem natural to the plot (the way the Japanese director talks for minutes in Japanese to Bob who does not understand a word; some pronunciation of an accent like "Lodja Moore") and too little really enchanting romance. Mikhalkov's "Dark Eyes" showed a much more stimulative contribution to the same topic. The ending, with the melancholic song "Just Like Honey" by The Jesus & Mary Chain, is one of the most beautiful and emotional endings of the decade, and it's a pity the whole film up to it could not have been as strong as that. It is sophisticated, yet somehow simply too pale, unexciting and bland. The opulent Tokyo, where the two protagonists get lost, only partially lived up to the expectations. It also won a Golden Globe for best motion picture - musical or comedy and screenplay, an Oscar for best screenplay and a New York Film Critics Circle Award for best director.


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