Lost in Translation

Like a good dream, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation envelops you with an aura of fantastic light, moody sound, head-turning love, and a feeling of déjà vu, even though you've probably never been to this neon-fused version of Tokyo. Certainly Bob Harris has not. The 50-ish actor has signed on for big money shooting whiskey ads instead of doing something good for his career or his long-distance family. Jetlagged, helplessly lost with his Japanese-speaking director, and out of sync with the metropolis, Harris (Bill Murray, never better) befriends the married but lovelorn 25-year-old Charlotte (played with heaps of poise by 18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Even before her photographer husband all but abandons her, she is adrift like Harris but in a total entrapment of youth. How Charlotte and Bill discover they are soul mates will be cherished for years to come. Written and directed by Coppola (The Virgin Suicides), the film is far more atmospheric than plot-driven: we whiz through Tokyo parties, karaoke bars, and odd nightlife, always ending up in the impossibly posh hotel where the two are staying. The wisps of bittersweet loneliness of Bill and Charlotte are handled smartly and romantically, but unlike modern studio films, this isn't a May-November fling film. Surely and steadily, the film ends on a much-talked-about grace note, which may burn some, yet awards film lovers who "always had Paris" with another cinematic destination of the heart. --Doug Thomas

Genre: Drama
Director(s): Sofia Coppola
Production: Focus Features
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 97 wins & 126 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.8
Metacritic:
89
Rotten Tomatoes:
95%
R (Restricted)
Year:
2003
102
$44,566,004
Website
3,518 Views

Director:
[in Japanese] Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently – say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in Casablanca, "Here's looking at you, kid" – Suntory time.

Ms. Kawasaki:
Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. Okay?

Bob:
That's all he said?

Ms. Kawasaki:
Yes. Turn to camera.

Bob:
All right. Does he want me to turn from the right, or turn from the left?

Ms. Kawasaki:
[to director, in Japanese] Uh, umm. He's ready now. He just wants to know if he's supposed to turn from the left or turn from the right when the camera rolls. What should I tell him?

Director:
[in Japanese] What difference does it make! Makes no difference! Don't have time for that! Got it, Bob-san? Just psych yourself up, and quick! Look straight at the camera. At the camera. And slowly. With passion. Straight at the camera. And in your eyes there's... passion. Got it?

Ms. Kawasaki:
[to Bob] Right side. And with intensity. Okay?

Bob:
Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.

Director:
[to Bob, in Japanese] Listen, listen. This isn't just about whiskey. Understand? Imagine you're talking to an old friend. Gently. The emotions bubble up from the bottom of your heart. And don't forget, psych yourself up!

Ms. Kawasaki:
Like an old friend. And, into the camera.

Bob:
Okay.

Director:
[in Japanese] Got it? You love whiskey. It's Suntory time. Okay?

Bob:
Okay.

[Bob and Charlotte are lying on the bed]

Charlotte:
I'm stuck. Does it get easier.

Bob:
No. Yes. It gets easier.

Charlotte:
Oh yeah? Look at you.

Bob:
Thanks. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

Charlotte:
Yeah. I just don't know what I'm supposed to be, you know. I tried being a writer, but I hate what I write. I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. You know, every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, like horses... taking dumb pictures of your feet.

Bob:
You'll figure that out. I'm not worried about you. Keep writing.

Charlotte:
But I'm so mean.

Bob:
Mean's okay.

Charlotte:
Yeah? What about marriage, does that get easier?

Bob:
That's hard. We used to have a lot of fun. Lydia would come with me when I made the movies, and we would laugh about it all. Now she doesn't want to leave the kids, and she doesn't need me to be there. The kids miss me, but they're fine. It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.

Charlotte:
It's scary.

Bob:
The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.

Charlotte:
Nobody ever tells you that.

Bob:
Your life, as you know it... is gone, never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk and you wanna be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.

Charlotte:
[beginning to fall asleep] Hmm, that's nice.

Bob:
Where'd you grow up?

Charlotte:
Um, I grew up in New York, and I moved to Los Angeles when John and I got married. But it's so different there.

Bob:
Yeah, I know.

Charlotte:
John thinks I'm so snotty.

Bob:
[chuckles] You're not hopeless.

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