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Editor recommends: Lost in Translation

July 16, 2012

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


It’s one of those rare things, finding something you connect to so utterly and so completely, something which makes you feel inspired and content that everything will, for that moment, be OK. When it is a film that enforces such feeling and emotion, well let’s just say, that’s a bit of a blowtorch to the mind.

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is one of those films. Even before I saw it, I knew I’d fall head over heels in love and to this day, turn to it like an old, dear friend whenever I’m looking for a bit of direction either in my career or just plain old life. Released in 2003, Coppola’s second full length feature (her first was The Virgin Suicides) manages to juggle the difficulties of marriage, infidelity, hope and a quest for life’s toughest questions, set against a backdrop of one of the world’s largest and most ambiguous cities, Tokyo. She also employs a dry, often sarcastic tone throughout the picture and though several emotions are explored in a somewhat intense manner, the film maintains a light-hearted and subtle quality right up until the powerful ending.

Lost in Translation centres around protagonists, Bob and Charlotte, two very different characters who have arrived in Tokyo for two very different reasons. Bob (played by the wonderful Bill Murray) is a washed up movie star, invited to endorse a whisky in a commercial which will earn him a significant amount of money. Charlotte (the equally delightful and very young Scarlett Johansson) is a recent graduate from Yale who has tagged along with her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) as she has yet to figure out what life has in store for her (something I’m sure many university graduates can relate to.) Bob and Charlotte happen to meet at the hotel they share and over the course of the film, have a series of often comical adventures in beautiful Tokyo.

Some Films can be conceited and shallow, not even beginning or attempting to ponder below the surface. Lost in Translation is just so real and provides ample opportunity for viewers to empathise with these characters and the difficulties they face. From the regular bouts of insomnia Bob and Charlotte face and the god awful television they have to entertain themselves to the worries we all have about conventions and how society affects what we think we should believe or feel. One scene sees Charlotte visit a Buddhist Shrine, only to later cry on the phone to her friend, complaining of not feeling anything, such is her belief to be struck by such experiences in a deep and spiritual way and the upset at not being affected how she thinks she ‘should’.

As mentioned, the humour is subtle and dry, rather than thick and fast or slapstick/ toilet jokey like so many comedies out there. The two and particularly Bob, inevitably find entertainment in the distinct language barrier between them and the Japanese. I’ve a very dry and sarcastic humour so obviously found much delight in this. The music score is beautiful and boasts artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Air and The Jesus and Mary Chain all of which create a perfect combination, guaranteed to play on your emotions. There’s also a genius scene set in a karaoke ‘bubble’ which sees Bob sing a stunning rendition of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’ and Charlotte, complete with pink wig do the Pretenders’ ‘Brass in Pocket’.

Lost in Translation may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I beg you, watch it, at least once, if not for some stellar, stand out performances from Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson (and brief glimpses of the hilarious Anna Faris.) Though it’s not yet ten years old, this movie really is a classic, so if you’re ever at a bit of a crossroads or seeking philosophical guidance then visit the Park Hyatt hotel, but make sure you remember your chopsticks.

Samuel Sims.