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Lost In Translation (R)
Focus Features
Official Site
Director: Sofia Coppola
Producers: Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz
Written by: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Rating: out of 5


Wow. I came out of the Lost In Translation screening wanting to go right back in and see it again. It was that good, that there was the desire to watch more closely, to pick up on anything I might have missed and to savor the morsels I found so tasty the first go-round.

With so many adulatory reviews of Lost In Translation, I hate to join the throng. I really fear creating an expectation no actual movie could possibly meet, but I have to say that this is one of the best things I’ve ever seen that made me feel good. Usually the truly great ones have that harrowing juxtaposition of fantastic film and emotional devastation (Requiem For A Dream, anyone?).

Bill Murray is Bob Harris (What a generic white-boy name!), a middle-aged movie star gone slightly to seed, in Japan to make a commercial for Suntory, a Japanese liquor company. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a very young newlywed tagging along on her photographer-husband’s glam photo shoot. Neither Charlotte nor Bob have what could properly be called an occupation, so time hangs heavy on their hands. After running into each other a few times at their high-rise hotel—and I give thanks that these meetings were not particularly cute—they decide to waste time together, fellow picaresques in Tokyo. Some of us, hereafter, when we think falling in love, will yearn not for the backdrop of an April in Paris, but an autumn in Tokyo.

I’m taking off half a star for the fact that Charlotte isn’t particularly compelling outside of her obvious youthful attractions. It’s a bit of a mystery what makes Bill Murray fall for her, other than that she’s there, she’s intelligent, and she’s a new audience for his schtick. His kung fu is the best, though; it’s very clear what’s so appealing about Bob. I mean who can’t appear in an ultra-charming light to someone who hasn’t heard our stories before? Bob’s later actions show that, on this jaunt away from the wife and kids he is in fact predisposed to be attracted, however temporarily, to whomever is there. Interestingly, the story engages our sympathies with Charlotte at this point, so that we feel worse about the possibility that he would betray Charlotte than we do about the possibility of him betraying his wife, Lydia.

There are no bells, no soft focus, no swelling violins, none of the standard accoutrements of the romantic comedy. Instead, we get a fairly bald picture of what other people falling in love. And it turns out that, properly done, love in bloom is pleasing from the outside looking in without being tarted up.

But it’s the lead actors that make Lost In Translation so particularly pleasing. Murray is about the funniest guy around, a master of the deadpan in some scenes and a male reincarnation of Lucille Ball in others, and Johansson just gets better and better. Still, there are two posters, one with Johansson and one with Murray, but there’s never any doubt whose show this is. The story is enjoyable, but it’s the sort of “and then they… and then she… and then he… and next they…” that it would be churlish to describe. Recounting their adventures wouldn’t be a spoiler exactly, but the show really rides on Murray’s and Johansson’s perfect reactions to whatever unfolds. It all unfolds in front of an excellent soundtrack and excellent music integration into the storyline. Not to be missed.

—Roxanne Bogucka

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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