Lost In Translation

Have you ever been stuck in a foreign country with nothing to do and unable to communicate with anyone? Well that’s just what happens to Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, in this intimate and absorbing film by Sofia Coppola, of two strangers who meet in a Tokyo hotel and strike up a flirtatious friendship.

Lost in Translation (2003) is a whimsical but moving meditative journey of two lost souls isolated and lonely in a strange land, both dealing with relationship issues, who end up bonding while sharing some insights about their life struggles.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, this is only the second major film by this promising and talented daughter of the legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, director of Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Godfather (1975) movies.

Bored and unable to sleep in a Tokyo hotel room while her boyfriend works day and night as a photographer, Charlotte wanders aimlessly around the city and the hotel to take in the unusual Japanese culture. While in a bar having drinks she meets up with a declining American movie star, Bob Harris played by Bill Murray, who is there to film a Japanese whiskey commercial. They eventually become close friends as they pass the time talking and discovering Tokyo’s night life.

This is a humorous but very naturally acted, subtle character piece that seems almost improvised as we follow along like an unsuspecting tourist wandering the streets and taking in all manner of strange cultural sights and sounds. In one of the funniest and unusual scenes of the film, Bill Murray is invited to attend a popular Japanese game show where the host dares him to play along with some nutty stunts.

Bill Murray is great at just being himself and you get the sense that he is genuinely baffled by the Japanese culture and their funny pronunciation of English. While directing him on the set of a whiskey commercial for Japanese television, the photographer gives him instructions on how to pose. He gets some wonderful laughs from his attempt to make sense of the Japanese way of speaking. He patiently listens to the director as he gives a long passionate speech in Japanese, but when his translator relays the message it comes out as a short vague sentence. Murray’s expressions of bewilderment are priceless. Something was definitely lost in the translation.

Nothing is explained and the audience is as baffled as the American actors by the bizarre customs. Young Charlotte is willing to try anything and finds the curious traditions intriguing. Together they awkwardly manage to deal with the culture clash and eventually just have fun meeting new people and going along with the local scene.

Don’t miss this wonderful slice of life that appeals to the eternally youthful spirit in all of us and almost feels like a travelogue to a fascinating oriental destination sampling the people, food and entertainment of downtown Tokyo.

Sofia Coppola’s films are always fun and insightful. Her latest film, The Bling Ring (2013) is coming out this summer and stars Emma Thompson, in a comedy about a group of stalking celebrity obsessed teens.



Susan Cooper said...

I've seen this movie and found it a fun experience. I totally agree with you regarding Bill Murray possibly being baffled by the Japanese conversation. :)

PCPC Bloggers said...

My brother, an airline pilot, says this is one of his favorite films...it's a great slice of life film and definitely strikes a chord in those among us who are forced to wander the earth aimlessly at times!

Anonymous said...

I have heard of this one but have yet to see it. I do feel like I have lived it at one point though.

When I was in Korea at one point in my life I ended up wandering around Seoul by myself. I even ended up on the subway where nothing was in English. It was an interesting experience trying to figure out where I was going when I had no clue what was written or spoken anywhere.

Jessica Fedorko said...

I've been looking for a new movie to watch...I consider myself a bit of a movie buff, but I must say I haven't been into the indie films as much as I should :/ I definitely want to watch this, I'm a HUGE Scarlet fan!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge movie watcher, but this sounds really good! I may have to find it! Thanks!

Sally DeSmet said...

It sounds like a great movie, I've put it on my "must see' list -- love the actors in this one!

Anita said...

One of my favorite movies :).