Lost in Translation Review
To me, this came out of nowhere. The name Sofia Coppola meant little, other than I knew she was baptised in a scene in The Godfather and was the daughter of its director, Francis. That same Francis who made classics such as The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, whose daughter's previous celluloid outing - I have since learned - was The Virgin Suicides, a fairly well-received film.
Talk of her infamous father is inevitable, yet from now on this will be a Francis-free zone so I can focus on Sofia's second film as writer/director: Lost in Translation. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a somewhat disgruntled, almost passé actor who travels to Tokyo, Japan to film a whisky commercial. A previous star back in the US - of action movie drivel - his journey also acts as a way to put some physical and mental distance between him and his ailing marriage. His kids may miss him and he knows it, but Bob soon finds Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), someone who shares his overall disdain for human existence. In her second year of marriage to a photographer who would rather go off snapping inane music artists, she is also a wanderer of this earth with no real purpose - until she finds Bob. This middle-aged man and twentysomething woman share a mutual pairing in the foreign streets of Tokyo, and soon start to discover that language or familiarity is not a barrier when you've got someone special to share it with.
It's interesting to note that Coppola bases almost the entire film around these two characters, with hardly anyone else getting any of the audience's focus (aside from Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris at times); but that is no bad thing. The performances from the two leads are enchanting in execution yet mellowed and subtle in presentation. The story is all about the small things in life, and their discovery is told slowly, gradually drawing us in to this neon-coated world.
Murray plays Bob Harris with a sly wink and relaxed charm, a man who has seen the world through clear eyes and is well aware of its flaws. Johansson equally plays Charlotte as someone matured beyond her young years, a philosophy graduate who connects with Bob instantly. Both deserve Oscar nominations.
As a writer and director Sofia Coppola excells, revelling in painting a canvas full of life and relationships, basing the narrative mainly in their Tokyo hotel where they're both staying. They do venture out, but even in the dreary and almost mind-numbing surroundings that a hotel can provide, their early insomnia is replaced by a new lust for life.
Other critics have almost unanimously declared this a modern classic, and I do tend to agree. I find it incredibly difficult to numerically score this film, as it is one of those that cannot be pigeon-holed in such a manner...it's slow-paced and not for those looking for a quick fix, but in the end the result is worth it - I came out of the cinema feeling elated, and I'm already counting down to its DVD release.
An early candidate for 2004's best film.