I was listening to my Groove Salad station last night (I even contributed US$35 to it) when the song "Lost in Kyoto" by Air came up, one of the first times I have recognized a song on that station. I figured I'd post my review of the movie from which it came, Lost in Translation. It is a frequent visitor to cable movie channels, and I always stop to watch some of it. I really need to add this to my collection, for those movie watching evenings when I am just looking to chill out and be mellow or even melancholic. I think in retrospect I like it even more than this review indicates. It is amazing how much talent is in that Coppola family. I wrote this review on January 29, 2005.
Lost in Translation was one of the big "indie" hits from 2003. Nominated for 4 Oscars, winning one (Best Screenplay), it was a critical and commercial success. Written, directed, and produced by Sofia Coppola, daughter of Hollywood legend Francis Ford Coppola, it tells the story of a chance meeting of two lost souls visiting the bustling metropolis of Tokyo and coming together to form a bond against the confusing world. Both Bill Murray, as the world-weary fading movie star and Scarlett Johansson, as the neglected wife of a fashion photographer, give standout performances in this very muted film.
Bob Harris (Murray) arrives in Tokyo, courtesy of Suntory, the large Japanese liquor maker. He's here to film some promos for their whiskey. Harris' star faded a long time ago, as a sort of Charles Bronson-ish action hero, but he is still revered in Japan. He arrives tired and worn out, and is quickly reminded by his wife back home about forgetting his son's birthday. He hears from her on many other occasions, each time merely a domestic triviality that get funnier and funnier, culminating in a huge decision involving carpet squares.
Charlotte (Johansson) has been married two years, but is already disillusioned with life and her marriage. Her husband is a photographer who already pretty much ignores her, leaving her to wander Tokyo, a stranger in a strange land. She crosses paths with Harris a few times, each time getting a little closer. When her husband goes off for a 3 day trip, Charlotte asks Harris to accompany her to a local friend's party, after a chance meeting at the swimming pool.
Charlotte and Bob get closer and closer, with several touchingly quiet scenes of them discussing life from different ends of the rainbow. Charlotte isn't sure what she wants to become, while Bob isn't satisfied at his destination. Each offers the other a missing piece of the puzzle; Charlotte brings her youthful, albeit muted, optimism, while Bill shows her that things can work out okay in the end. They orbit around each other for the movie, which ends on a satisfyingly ambiguous note.
All in all, a very low key movie. Probably too low key for its own good, really. There was no denouement, as there was no real conflict. Just two people struggling to figure things out, and offering a new perspective to the other. Bill Murray had some really funny scenes, both laugh out loud (like the exercise machine) and more understated, like the many laconic comments. Scarlett Johansson was beguilingly beautiful, without being movie star-ish, if you know what I mean. She contrasted nicely with Anna Faris, who played a movie star promoting her movie and was a confidant of Charlotte's husband. Johansson's understated beauty contrasted nicely with Faris' perky movie star blondeness.
The DVD had a pretty interesting "Making Of" featurette, that was basically just a hand held video camera, filming while they were filming. It showed the "guerrilla" filming as it happened, which was pretty fun. There was also an interview with Murray and Coppola, as they talked about the movie. The music was excellent, while the sounds did not, of course, push your speakers at all. There was also a collection of cut scenes, which once again showed that these movie makers know what they are doing, leaving these on the floor
So I liked it enough to think about buying the DVD, although it is more of a mood piece than a real conflict-laden movie. Sort of like listening to a favorite CD when in the mood - a blue and confused mood. I'm not sure I understand all the hype though. For most people, a rental would work just fine.