#2 – “LOST IN TRANSLATION” (2003)
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s second feature, following her sublime 1999 debut feature “The Virgin Suicides”, explores the themes of displacement, dislocation and humanity’s basic need for connection and whilst it uses the alien backdrop of Tokyo to heighten the sense of loneliness the core emotion is one which many of us have surely felt at some point in our lives. That an individual can stand in a crowded room (or in this case a densely populated city) yet still feel entirely alone speaks volumes about mankind’s intrinsic desire to simply connect and how it’s not so much about where we are as who we’re with.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a man in that very predicament, an ageing movie star who is currently in Tokyo to film an advertisement for Suntory whiskey. Arriving by taxi into a neon-lit, high rise wonderland he stares blearily out of the taxi window only to see himself staring straight back on a giant advertisement board. Yet it’s as if the giant image on the distant billboard doesn’t seem quite right, being both comfortingly familiar yet strangely surreal. In the midst of a midlife crisis his wife seems more concerned in constantly faxing him diagrams of shelving units and discussing which colour carpeting he prefers which only goes to further his sense of existential ennui.
Into all of this comes Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson) a young girl who’s accompanying her photographer boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi) on an assignment to Tokyo yet feels forever sidelined in favour of glamorous celebrities (Anna Faris, allegedly channelling the spirit of Cameron Diaz). Both Bob and Charlotte are lost souls, equally bored and confused, with the young Charlotte still struggling to find her way in life whilst Bob appears to have all but lost his sense of direction. And yet the two of them ultimately desire nothing more than to rediscover true companionship and a chance meeting in the hotel bar soon leads to a intoxicatingly memorable adventure as the two of them explore the city together and form the type of bond they’d all but given up hope of ever finding.
By far one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen “Lost In Translation” unfolds slowly and may be considered superficial to some yet casts such a bewitching spell upon the audience that surely only the coldest of hearts will remain untouched come the conclusion. Stunningly shot on location Coppola affords Tokyo a character of its own and results in a film in which the location inhabits the characters as much as they inhabit it.
Performance wise Murray walks away with a great deal of the plaudits delivering what could possibly be the finest performance of his career as he effortlessly combines the charm, wit and sophistication of past roles with a perfectly nuanced nonchalance and world weary approach to life that never feels forced. Johansson, meanwhile, provides the perfect counterbalance for Bob bringing with her the youthful folly and vibrant sensuality so lacking in his life.
Further accentuated by the decision to not subtitle any of the foreign languages such impenetrable lyrical madness only heightens the sense of cultural dislocation and strengthens the bond between Bob and Charlotte as the two of them discover a welcome familiarity amidst this alarmingly unfamiliar climate.
Culminating in a truly heartbreaking finale that sees Bob whisper a few choice words in Charlotte’s ear the film ultimately leaves it up to the viewer to decide upon the precise words that were spoken. Yet the emotion contained within that single moment is crystal clear. For amidst the chaos of their daily lives, the confusion and uncertainty, the sadness and regret and the loneliness and alienation that surrounds them they’ve ultimately discovered a truly precious thing. Whilst strictly platonic an undeniable love has formed between them and however transient it may turn out to be it is, nonetheless, sure to resonate with the two of them for the rest of their lives. For as the poster says, “Everyone wants to be found” and sometimes that special someone can turn up in the most unexpected of places and all but turn your world upside down.
A true work of art “Lost In Translation” emerges as much an experience as a straightforward movie and one that exudes such timeless emotions as to leave the viewer wishing only to get lost in it all over again …
“Well you figure, you sleep one-third of your life, that knocks out eight years of marriage right there. So you’re, y’know, down to 16 in change. You know you’re just a teenager, at marriage, you can drive it but there’s still the occasional accident”
Track #13 – “JUST LIKE HONEY”
Written by Jim Reid and William Reid
(Performed by The Jesus and Mary Chain)