Movie Review: Lost in Translation

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
I would like to give Sofia Coppola credit: when she says she has made a trilogy on the lives of young woman, I believe it. Sort of, and this then is the first of three reports running through next month, on this subject.
Tonight, Lost in Translation is the first of the trilogy to be looked at, next Marie Antoinette , and last, The Virgin Suicides - all by Sofia Coppola.
So much of Lost in Translation is really about Bob Harris played by Bill Murray. In the DVD extras there is a conversation with Bill and Sophia, not –Scarlet Johansson. So my first point is this is hardly a film that focuses on a young woman. It’s more about Bob.
This is one of the films before Scarlet was everywhere, on ads, in almost every film and paired up with everyone. Being with an aging movie star going through a mid life crisis, as Charlotte puts it to him, seems so overdone as a theme. But nothing comes of it, although both of them are bored with their spouses, and that is different. Bob has a wife more interested in her kids and interior decorating after 25 years, and Charlotte has a husband more interested in his job. We see Charlotte take trips to Buddhist temples, past Mt Fuji, lying in bed or on the bathtub with headphones. Bored and restless. Bob is in Tokyo to make 2 million dollars endorsing Japanese whiskey. Charlotte has accompanied her husband on a photo shoot. He is always gone. Bob and Charlotte find each other in a hotel in the sky bar. A friendship develops.
One interesting aside are scenes with a movie star in Tokyo in town for film promotion, a young woman who knows Charlottes's husband. She has chosen a name to throw the paparazzi off - Evelyn Waugh. "Doesn’t she know that is a man’s name", asks Charlotte bitchily, obviously threatened by the attention the starlet throws at her husband. "Don’t be such a snob just because you graduated from Yale", he retorts. We learn she has a degree in philosophy and she doesn’t know what to do with her life, and it doesn’t seem like following her husband to Tokyo is the best use of her abilities. Neither is the ad campaign that Bob signs up for, or the spot on an out of control TV show with a blabbering Japanese host.
The backdrop is Japan which if anything keeps many of the stereotypes of this country alive. The Japanese are small, they use little razors, their shower stalls are adjusted for short people. Westerners tower over them in elevators. Pop consumer culture is everywhere and the only things that seem missing are the black skies and perpetual rain from "Bladerunner" to add to the flashing billboards from huge buildings of present day Tokyo. There’s lots of sushi, lots of sukiyaki. And karaoke. And there is the sky bar, with cheesy English language music covers, a dead place for travelers who use the pool, and dress in kimonos or terry cloth bathrobes.
I am not sure what Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear at the end of the film, but I am sure that it made them both relieved, that their meeting had meaning. I enjoyed the emphasis on youth culture in Lost in Translation - it is whimsical and free, and I get the same feeling from Marie Antoinette . I do think however that Charlotte should try to do something else with her philosophy degree than analyzing why marriages go sour. It might get rid of her insomnia.

For Movie Magazine This is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm SWEDEN
More Information:
Lost in Translation
USA/Japan - 2003