Lost in Translation
is the maverick film of the year directed by Sofia Coppola and produced by father Francis Ford Coppola. The cinematography is crisp and elegant, capturing the wonderful burst of energy in Tokyo. The script by Sofia Coppola breathes and is light and capricious.
The problem I have with Lost in Translation
however is the love story between an aging bored American actor Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray and a young bored Ivy League college graduate Charlotte played by Scarlet Johansson. For starters, would a young woman smile at an older man in an elevator, would she send over a drink in a bar? I don't think so but this is how the story begins and it happens because the two are surrounded by Japanese people all the time, so they can't help but bond. The stereotyping involved in the film gets a little irritating such as the low shower head in Bob's hotel bathroom designed for a tiny Japanese person. For comic relief he slouches to take his shower. Likewise, he tries to shave his rather large face with the tiny disposable razors the Hotel Hyatt supplies in Japan for tiny Japanese faces. Bob is in town to make a whiskey commercial and spends all his free time in the bar drinking whiskey or flipping the remote on channels in his hotel room with a look of awe at all the Japanese programs. He is cued for his commercial by a demonstrative Japanese director (Yutaka Tadokoro) who he is sure is saying more than 'look serious' or 'look like James Bond' when his instructions are translated from Japanese. That is where the title of the film comes from. I see the title however as a metaphor for something else: the Japanese are lost in translation for what is conveyed through the film are the most obvious stereotypes including clicking camera cliches and continually bowing smiling polite people. At nite however Coppola shows a contemporary youth scene that ruptures the barriers of predictable daily life. Like Bob, Charlotte also is lost, flipping through fashion magazines in her hotel room. She calls a friend after traveling to a Buddhist temple and concludes she doesn't know who she is married too any longer, a frenetic photographer who leaves her alone while he goes on exciting shoots. Bob and Charlotte become inextricably linked, resigning themselves to boredom as a lifestyle though they get temporary comic relief from each other. Sofia Coppola's film is nominated for the major categories at the Academy Awards best director, film, actor and actress, a handcrafted and personal film in a land made strange and impersonal.
For Movie Magazine, This is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm SWEDEN
© 2004 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 3/04
Lost In Translation
USA - 2003