Lost in Translation is not an ordinary film. It is a masterpiece that does not allow you to remain indifferent. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson’s acting was phenomenal. Do not take our word. Read the reviews! We have collected both good and bad assessments to let you see both sides.
An American making a connection in Japan – 10/10
The comic melodrama Lost in Translation from director Sofia Coppola touchingly connects the dots between the three standards of yearnings established in movies; “Brief Encounter” from David Lean, “Before Sunrise” from Richard Linklater”, and “In the Mood for Love” from Kar-Wai. All these movies are about the moment of evanescence that fades before the participants eyes, which is the case with Lost in Translation, which also exhibits the same stylised, self-contained loneliness seen in post-punk pieces like Bizarre Love Triangle from New Order.
The movie from Ms. Coppola is also hilarious. The sexiness of the movie comes from the busy and desperate need-to-impress heat of flirtation, unrequited love communicated through the filter of sleep deprivation.
Lost in Translation is a perfect example of a director loving the gifts that their stars bring to the table. We’ve also never seen a director find someone more worthy of their admiration than Bill Murray. Murray practically plays himself and the persona that he used to become famous. His character – American movie star Bob – is staying in Tokyo to perform the not-so-secret shame of every celebrity; being paid a boatload of money to star in a commercial. In his case it’s for Suntory Whiskey.
He lands in Japan just in time to gaze embarrassedly at the billboards with his sullen face on them. While sleeplessly making his way through the lobby of the Tokyo Hyatt he runs into Charlotte – played by Scarlett Johansson – who has found herself abandoned by her husband, who is off shooting a band.
The film follows the twists and connections of their relationship. Much like a Trans-Atlantic call, their feelings aren’t felt for a few seconds. This lag serves to embellish the comedy, not to mention heartbreak, of the piece.
It’s the first time Mr. Murray has played a grown-up role and he inflects every part of awareness of being Bill Murray that he has with a bevelled determination. Part of the reason for this could be that he’s never been asked to play a role where he has to pay attention to other characters instead of leading – and saving – a scene.
Murray seems to stand taller because he has cast off the demand for mainstream comedy. He generally gives performances worth paying attention to in a movie that no one will see; such as when he played Hunter S. Thompson in «Where the Buffalo Roam», which may have the distinction of being the only movie that showed his ability to simultaneously showcase physical threat and vulnerability.
In the movie, Murray supplies a performance that seems to be so effortless and fully realized that it’s as if he isn’t acting at all. This results in direction from Ms. Coppola that is so assured in its awareness of loneliness that the entire film could be dismissed as being self-consciously moody rather than being a mood piece. The movie is sure to be recognised as deserving the attention the Oscars occasionally give to movies that subtly challenge their audiences. Bill may finally get the Academy Award that he failed to get for “Rushmore”.
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Murray’s character in “Lost in Translation” has taken a hit from being able to absorb everything around him, and how this has burdened him is what the movie is all about. The psychodrama of the phone calls he receives from his wife add a chilling layer of passive-aggressive horror that makes it easy to understand why he ran off to Tokyo. Thanks to the gracefulness of Coppola, these conversations add texture to the movie rather than overwhelming it.
Music has been a major part of Coppola’s life; her last feature movie – a screen adaptation of The Virgin Suicides – got more from the music of Air than it did from the narrative. Coppola also gives Bob the chance to sing some karaoke, including singing “More than This” by Roxy Music.
The movie perfectly conveys dislocation and the results of it on more than just a visual level. It’s perhaps because of this that it exists more like a film rendering psychological coloration than a script.
Given Coppola’s faith in Murray though, it really becomes his movie and it’s obvious that he has a lot of respect for the director.
Ms Coppola has only done a handful of films but she has already shown an interest in creating emotional way stations. The characters she creates are between their past and their future; lost in transition. Her movies may be considered some kind of ongoing metaphorical autobiography. What matters most is that there’s always a lot on the screen for viewers to lose themselves in.
A thoroughly disappointing movie – 2/10
Lost in Translation is a thoroughly disappointing movie. It might be getting a lot of praise, but the reality is that it’s still very flawed. I will concede the point that it has been beautifully filmed and that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson offer incredible performances and have a sweet and endearing on-screen relationship; given that any tale of two lost souls coming together will be compelling. Outside of these positives though, the film offers up a patronizing and stereotypical – if not borderline racist – portrayal of Japanese culture.
By showing a steady procession of cherry-picked Japanese “oddities” the movie appears to be spreading a message that we should laugh at how silly and un-American the Japanese people are. One of the recurring “jokes” of the movie is mocking the way Japanese people swap the pronunciations of “I” and “R”. The gag is hardly funny the first time you hear it, never mind the fifth time.
In one of the more “comedic” scenes of the movie, the character Murray plays has trouble understanding a Japanese director with a heavy accent during a photoshoot. He mimics the voice of the director in order to decipher his instructions and it just isn’t funny at all. If anything it is embarrassing and brings to mind the lack of logic associated with raising your voice to make a non-English speaking person understand what you are saying.
Things are made even worse by how slow or boring the movie gets sometimes. Outside of the great chemistry between the two stars and the powerful aesthetics, the appeal of Lost in Translation is – if you’ll pardon the pun – lost in translation; mostly thanks to the criminal levels of cultural insensitivity that no one in a modern world should be applauding.