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Lost in Translation

USA/Japan 2003
produced by
Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz, Francis Ford Coppola (executive), Fred Roos (executive) for Focus Features, American Zoetrope, Elemental Films, Tohokashinsha Film
directed by Sofia Coppola
starring Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Akiko Takeshita, Kazuyoshi Minamimagoe, Kazuko Shibata, Take, Ryuichiro Baba, Akira Yamaguchi, Catherine Lambert, Francois du Bois, Tim Leffman, Gregory Pekar, Richard Allen, Giovanni Ribisi, Yutaka Tadokoro (= Diamond Yukai), Jun Maki, Nao Asuka, Tetsuro Naka, Kanako Nakazato, Fumihiro Hayashi, Hiroko Kawasaki, Daikon, Anna Faris, Asuka Shimuzu, Ikuko Takahashi, Koichi Tanaka, Hugo Codaro, Akiko Monou, Akimitsu Naruyama, Hiroshi Kawashima, Hiromix (= Hiromi Toshikawa), Nobuhiko Kitamura, Nao Kitman, Akira, Kunichi Nomura, Yasuhiko Hattori, Shigekazu Aida, Kazuo Yamada, Akira Motomura, Osamu Shigematu, Mathew Minami (= Takashi Fujii), Kei Takyo, Ryo Kondo, Yumi Ikeda, Yumika Saki, Yuji Okabe, Dietrich Bollmann, Georg O.P.Eschert, Mark Willms, Lisle Wilkerson
written by Sofia Coppola, music by Kevin Shields

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Has-been actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray) comes to Tokyo to shoot a commercial for a local whiskey brand - and hates the city from day one (though he doesn't even give the place a chance). Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) has come to Tokyo with her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi), and the two stay at the same hotel as Bob - but while her hubby is busy moving from one photoshoot to the next, Charlotte, who shows as little interest in Tokyo or Japan as such as Bob, is only bored, and also just like Bob, she feels alienated.

Eventually, the two meet in the hotel's bar, begin to talk, and even though they are totally different and she's at best half his age, they start liking each other, and even go out (of the hotel) together. Their almost relationship almost gets smashed though when Bob, after a few whiskeys too many, is picked up by the hotel's jazz singer (Catherine Lambert), and Charlotte finds out he has spent the night with her. Somehow though, they get over this bump in their relationship and when Bob finally has to leave Tokyo (to be reunited with his wife and children), it almost breaks both their hearts.

 

A favourite with the arthouse crowd and self-declared independent movie lovers - but is it any good?

Hmmm ... of course, Bill Murray is great, and he gives everything he has to come across convincing as the washed-up star, never letting something like glamour stand in his way while never overdoing it either. And Scarlett Johansson, she is the perfect yang to his yin, her performance is as subtle as his, and you can really feel a chemistry developing between the two of them. Plus, there's Sofia Coppola's directorial effort, which is fittingly unexcited and always favours small gestures over action and does everything to not turn the film in an unnecessary Tokyo-travelogue.

That said though, Lost in Translation is decidedly less than perfect, while Murray and Johansson are great actingwise, their characters are totally underdeveloped, onedimensional even, and while its leads are great, the film's supporting cast, especially Giovanni Ribisi as Johansson's husband and Anna Faris as a filmstar on a promotional tour, is sub-par, the film's plot is as thin as it's pathetic and could be summed up by one phrase - two people in Tokyo who never even give the city a chance (almost) cheat on their spouces with each other -, and Sofia Coppola might be good in capturing small gestures, but apart from a few memorable shots she's not much of a visual directrice. Plus, the film might be kind of cute for a while, but after a time it simply gets boring.

All that said, Lost in Translation is not a bad movie - but unfortunately it's not too good either. If you like Scarlett Johansson and especially Bill Murray (and who doesn't, really?), you'll no doubt find something to like about it still, but otherwise, it's probably a waste of time.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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