Sunday, July 24, 2011

Classic - Lost in Translation

I must admit, I was pretty unsure about Lost in Translation before I watched it. I mean, I know that it was very well loved and all by the critics, but not many 'other' people really liked it. However, since I loved Somewhere, I'm pretty sure it was a given that I would like Sofia Coppola's most lauded film. Which does make me a little confused, as between this and Somewhere, not a lot happens. Most films that I've watched recently, like, I don't know, The Mechanic or Season of the Witch, have been films that I have found really boring. And, while I mean this in the nicest possible way, there's a bit more happening in those films than the two Sofia Coppola movies I've seen. However, those films, with all of their sequences of blood and violence fail to draw me in, whereas Somewhere and Lost in Translation rope me in from the very start, making me want to observe a character's life. Does that mean I'm becoming a snob? Whatever, I like Sofia's films better.

Anyway, Lost in Translation is a film set in the beautiful looking city of Tokyo, Japan, where two strangers meet and form an unlikely friendship. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an American filmstar making an advertisement for whiskey, which has provided him with an opportunity to get away from his boring marriage. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is a young wife of a photographer and spends most of her time at the hotel alone, as her husband is often out taking pictures. The two, very alone souls wander around Tokyo hoping to find something fun, which is when they come across each other. So now, these two Americans are together exploring Tokyo, being as confused and amused as each other by their relationship with the Japanese. But with their relationship comes with the fact that their relationship will have to end when one of them ends their stay in Tokyo. Which is of course a shame, but through finding each other, they both 'found themselves', so to speak.

Well there's no denying that Lost in Translation is one hell of a beautiful movie. You know that a director has done well when she makes a movie romantic without the story involving a lot of romance. This may sound weird, but I could really feel the romance between the camera and whatever it was filming. Rarely do I ever watch a film that is so understated in the way it is made, but the beauty just glows through it. This is the main reason as to why I pretty much love Sofia Coppola now: she knows how to make a film look gorgeous, without much effort at all. What she also manages to do is give us a good tour of Japan, exploring everywhere from temples to arcades. She doesn't try to make the city look like one perfect place, though, as she makes it look as frustrating as it is beautiful. The relationship between the visitors and the Japanese is particularly funny to watch though, because as any traveller would know, things always happen differently in every country, which makes for a pretty confusing time. There's just a divine simplicity about Lost in Translation which is given life through Coppola's excellent vision of Tokyo and how a film really should be. Hell, this was way more interesting to me than that Jason Statham movie.

Maybe the reason I found this more interesting than watching Statham beat the bejesus out of people was the fact that there was a proper, realistic relationship between two characters. Okay, I don't know if some normal girl would just meet a film-star in a bar and they would strike up some wonderful friendship. But you really can't tell me that some assassin would be paired up with a guy whose father was killed by him. Anyway, the relationship between Bob and Charlotte is gorgeous to watch. They never, to our knowledge, really engage in any hanky panky between the two, which is nice, because their friendship is enough. The two, instead, are joined by the fact that they are in the same boat: lost in a city, not being able to understand what everyone else is saying, feeling very alone instead of enjoying the city as most tourists would. They are reduced to spending their free time in their hotel room, venturing out to the pool and gym sometimes, eventually ending up in the bar at night. This just goes to show that there is no point in going to a beautiful city unless you have someone to enjoy it all with, and Bob and Charlotte, with the help of Tokyo, are perfect for each other.

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson do a wonderful job of making this relationship work, as without their chemistry, the film probably would have fell flat. Murray was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and rightfully so. While there's a great deal of seriousness in his performance, his comic charm overrides this. His character is really a wounded soul, but he doesn't let that be known through a depressed performance. Instead, he just looks haplessly bored with his life, and has that certain 'I-should-probably-try-to-make-you-like-me-since-I'm-famous' air about him. I found it somewhat hard to like Bob at the start, but as the film progressed, and his relationship with Charlotte deepened, I came around to him. Scarlett Johansson delivers a brilliant performance too. At first I thought she was quite boring, but that only came down to the bored life she was living. However, there was something in both the character and Johansson's performance that I really connected with; whether it be general abandonment, a slight jealousy towards someone on a higher level (that would be movie star Kelly, who is played brilliantly by Anna Faris) or the need to find herself, but not in the way everyone else does (like her discontent with not feeling anything while visiting the temple - because everyone is supposed to feel something there). Both of these characters are essentially dead inside, until they discover each other. Which might sound clich├ęd, but in all honesty, that doesn't matter. This is a film which observes a friendship in the most beautiful possible way: with simplicity and elegance. The best thing? It ends all too soon.

THE VERDICT: While not moving at the fastest pace, Lost in Translation is a great observation of a relationship between two stranger in a foreign land, beautifully done by director Sofia Coppola and stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. I love this film. It's my second favourite of S. Coppola's films (Marie Antoinette is the Rococo queen of my heart). All my life I have wanted to go to some big city alone and meet some one how Bob and Charlotte meet each other. I mean I'm a huge Before Sunrise fan, but there's just something more, excuse the term, realistic to this relationship.

    I love how you wrote about Coppola's filming being romantic...she just makes the most gorgeous films. Again, all my life I've wanted to be a character in a Sofia Coppola film, because I would never look more better :)

    The ending of Lost in Translation is one of the most incredible endings ever...whatever did he whisper?

  2. This movie is on my "Must watch" list. Reading your review I'm going to bump it up and watch it this week.

  3. Being a kind of "rookie-Sofia-Coppola-fan", I am so glad you wrote about this one. No, I haven't seen it. But I now know, I should...
    "Frustrating yet beautiful" is something I find in a lot of things I love. They never get boring because of the frustration.
    Gosh, I'm becoming snobby now as well, right?

  4. I think the fact you liked this over some action packed flick doesn't make you a snob. I think it means you can enjoy a film that isn't trying to do a song and dance to entertain you at every moment.

    And Lost in Translation is a fantastic films. It's one of the few films I watch when I'm sick because it always makes me feel better. The great core relationship of this film is one of the best I've seen committed to film.

  5. Being a longtime fan of Sofia and probably the biggest fan of this film since it is my all-time favorite movie. This is a great review.

    I like films when there's not much that needs to be explained or having a lot of plot devices as long as it doesn't become overly-pretentious. This film hit me on a very personal level about my own sense of confusion with the world and not sure what I wanted to do. I really identified with Charlotte in her aimlessness.

    It is Sofia Coppola's best film though all of her work is great. I don't think she needs to change anything of what she does. She's not for everyone but at least she knows what not to do.

  6. I like this movie more than 'Somewhere'. In fact there are similarities of the celebrity ennui theme. Glad you liked it.

  7. Lost in Translation is a fantastic film, and if you want to know what he whispered to her at the end, it was: "I have to leave now, but I don't want that to come between us."

    You liked "Somewhere" too? Thank God. Every single person I asked about it hated it, and I seemed to be the only person who really loved it. It (like Lost in Translation) is exactly the kind of anticlimactic indie drama where not much happens that I'm an absolute sucker for.

  8. Nikhat - I wish I could meet someone like Bob and Charlotte did. I'll make that my life's purpose now :P
    Sofia does make beautiful films...they are so romantic without actually being romantic. Haha, I wanna be in a Sofia movie too now!
    The ending was awesome. I don't really mind what he whispered, since I loved the ambiguity.

    Chelsea - I really hope you enjoy it!

    Lime(tte) - You should definitely check it out. Then you can be a 'snob' like me!

    James - That is true. I'm a sucker for simplicity.
    Ironically, I watched this when I was sick. That must be why I liked it so much :P

    thevoid99 - Thanks! And this is definitely in my top 100 favourite films now. I need to buy it so I can watch it again!
    I agree with you, and I related to Charlotte a lot too.
    Sofia's films are so beautiful, and I really don't care what other people have to say about her (making slow movies and all). She's brill.

    Andina - Yeah, I liked this more than Somewhere too. And I got the similarities too!

    Tyler - I heard that was what was whispered. Awesome!
    And I loved Somewhere. I've heard a lot of hate for it as well, but I know some huge fans out there, so we're not alone. And I'm a sucker for those types of films too :P

  9. This is one of my favorite films too. The fish out of water aspect is something I really identified with when it came out, and the soundtrack just blows me away.

  10. Hi Stevee, interesting that you went to see this one because of Somewhere. It was the other way around for me but I hated Somewhere (sorry) but really appreciate Lost in Translation. I really like Bill Murray's performance and the relationship between him and Scarlet's character (this is when I still find her bearable to watch). Great review!

  11. Bonjour Tristesse - I definitely identified with the fish out of water aspect! The soundtrack was pretty awesome.

    Ruth - It's okay, you're among the 'normal' people who hate Somewhere! Haha. And yes, this is one of the few films which I liked Scarlett Johansson in. I'm not a big fan, otherwise.

  12. dam went into this movie with high hopes
    had them all dashed by terminal boredom and found the central relationship unengaging
    glad when it was over,nice cinematography though

  13. I like this movie very much and i love its theme also. I am feeling soo glad to see this post. Keep sharing more posts. Thanks for the sharing it.... :)

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