Tuesday, August 20, 2013


(October 2003, U.S.)

In simply gazing at the movie poster of LOST IN TRANSLATION for a long enough period of time and staring at Bill Murray's face, you get an immediate sense of this man's psyche. First, it's pretty obvious that the poor man can't sleep a wink! Further exploration into the film reveals themes of loneliness, existential ennui, and severe culture shock against the backdrop of a modern Japanese city. I can only say that I know how the man feels. I've sat up like that many-a-times in the middle of the night trying to figure out just what the hell was going on in my life, in the lives of people around me and how in the world I was ever going to get back to sleep before that damn alarm clock wakes me up to face another day!

Sophia Coppola's (daughter of Francis Ford) second feature revolves around an aging actor named Bob Harris (played by Murray) and a recent college graduate named Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johansson) who develop a rapport after a chance meeting in a Tokyo hotel. Both can't sleep and both aren't particularly thrilled to be in Tokyo for their own reasons. Bob had an illustrious film career once, back in the 1970s, and seems to be reduced now to filming an advertisement to plug a popular Japanese whisky. Charlotte is left behind day after day while her husband tends to his job as a photographer. While she's unsure of her marriage after only two years, Bob's own twenty-five year marriage is tired and lacking in romance as he goes through a rather predictable midlife crisis. It's very easy for these two lost and lonely people to find each other amidst the bright lights and craziness of the city around. Perhaps it's even more poetic that the two of them hardly seem that interested in pursuing any romantic notions between them. The message of friendship as a saving grace for these people becomes clear. By the time the two of them are saying goodbye by the end of the film, it's very easy and tempting to simply brush off the entire relationship they've shared as only a passing trivial event. Then, however, at the last moment that is rather filled with cliché, Bob jumps out of his taxi on the way to the airport to find Charlotte one more time to offer a more meaningful farewell. In a particularly interesting final moment, Bob embraces Charlotte and whispers something that is substantially inaudible to the audience in her ear. What don't know what he said to her, but she's crying, nonetheless. It's admittedly frustrating not to know, yet it's also intriguing to leave the departing friends with a sense of ambiguity. It would seem that sometimes the feeling of the unknown and the unanswered can work very well.

In addition to the meaning and detail lost in much of the Japanese translation in the film, the two central characters in the film are also lost in other ways. On a basic level, they're lost in the alien Japanese culture. But in addition to that, they're lost in their own lives and relationships, a feeling, amplified by their displaced location, that inevitably leads to their blossoming friendship and growing connection with one another. It's a somewhat romantic movie about two characters that have moments of connection in a story that also offers negative perspectives of dating, romance, sex and love. It's sad, it's sweet and thanks to Bill Murray's ongoing film character and persona, funny in just the right places. And hey, I personally have no complaint with a film that opens on Scarlett Johansson's perfectly-sculpted ass behind her pretty pink panties! No, nothing wrong with that at all...

Thanks for that, Sophia!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Photographer: "Are you drinking, no?"
Bob: "Am I drinking? As soon as I'm done."

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