Lost In Translation

Two Americans in Tokyo. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is there for work – her husband’s work. Neglected, she spends er time gazing down upon the city from the cloisters of her hotel room. Elsewhere in said hotel, Bob (Bill Murray) is suffering the indignity of doing foreign commercials ow that his movie work has dried up. It’s a nice pay day but a blow to his ego. His wife nags him long-distance, via middle of the night faxes.

When Charlotte and Bob meet, they are immediate kindred spirits. Lonely and 0-JQ8-nKevwyF6_c5L.pngAmerican, they form a bond that mimics intimacy. In their glowy little bubble, they experience the quirks and sights of Japan; its foreign-ness feels less daunting and more adventurous when they’re together. When they’re apart, it emphasizes their aloneness. But they always revert to the comfort and familiarity of their luxurious but non-descript hotel. In he hotel, they could be anywhere. They develop such a strong sense of we vs. them that even other Americans seem wrong to them, are laughable. Of course, their friendship is a little dangerous: it won’t be good for either of their marriages.

Bill Murray is good – Oscar-nominated good. His improvisations are so good you can literally see extras cracking up in some scenes. Scarlett Johansson was only 17 when this was filmed, so she’s more of a blank slate, having not yet picked up a lot of the acting crutches and mannerisms upon which she’s come to rely. Actually, in 2018, Lost in Translation is 15 years old, which is almost as old as she was when she made it. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Writer-director Sofia Coppola probably made her biggest splash with this film. It pulses with life because she threw so much of herself, her own insecurities and worries, into it. Both of these characters travel to an alien land to truly realize how isolated they’ve become. They are disconnected from their spouses, and communication back home is sporadic and brief. There’s a longing for connection that’s an evident, live thread woven into the tapestry of this film. So many small details add up as proof of their passionate friendship, which is far more effective in this context than a sexual relationship would have been.

The film’s sparsity of dialogue speaks volumes to language not being the greatest barrier between people. Communication happens on all levels, and Coppola signals this in her final scene, with that elusive yet beautiful ending in which Murray whispers something unintelligible to Johansson, and they share a tender kiss. What did he say to her?  We may never know the words, but ew unddertand the meaning.


13 thoughts on “Lost In Translation

  1. selizabryangmailcom

    I was fond of this movie, but my husband hates it. I’m not sure it transcends the gender borders. Very slow. Full of pregnant pauses, close-ups, emotions. That’s okay. I’ll watch it alone if I have to. I thought Bill M. was really good too. It’s nice when the funny guys finally come to their own doing drama (like Robin Williams). I’m not sure I’ve seen a believable dramatic performance by Jim Carrey yet. It always seems forced to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Paul Hellard

    The posting of these reviews always precedes a manic search for a copy of the movie/program. But ‘Lost in Translation’ left me cold. I ended up screaming at the screen for these characters to get out of their hotel room and experience the country they’ve found themselves in. Don’t think I watched all the way through either time I viewed. But now I reckon I’ll search for it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. orcaflotta

    “indignity of doing foreign commercials”
    “the quirks and sights of Japan; its foreign-ness”

    I always find it astonishing and a bit off-putting that for Americans everything they don’t know is “foreign”. There is nothing foreign in and about Tokyo but the two Americans which are clearly misplaced there, for whatever silly reasons. Tokyo is a city on planet Earth, as are New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Mexico City, Lima, Beijing, Kiev, Jo’burg. People go to all those places and more or less love or loath them, based on the feel of each individual city, with the noteworthy exception of Americans. All they see is how foreign everything around them is, instead of acknowledging how alien and strange they themselves are.

    Apart from that did nobody notice what a boring flick LiT really is? Good premise, lost in directon. :/ For me S. Coppola is a vastly overrated, pretentious wannabe film-maker, a hipster girl living off daddy’s good reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glen available

    I remember watching this movie at the cinema in Australia in early 2004 after arriving back from spending three years living and working in Tokyo. I really wanted to like it but ended up not being able to get past it’s sloth-like, nuance-overdosed slowness.


  5. Spoilt Victorian Child

    It’s a study in alienation. Like Bowie in the late Nicolas Roeg masterpiece, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Like Short Cuts, it’s what isn’t said that reveals more.
    The strip club scene from Johanssen’s perspective is both cringingly awkward and funny… A woman watching the male gaze watching women.
    A beautiful film.



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