Lost in Translation
(United States, 2003)
Lost in Translation becomes the first movie to enter the Top 100 after I finished posting the original list (not counting the second and third chapter of The Lord of the Rings, which just resulted in a re-aligning of slots). Pushing something off the list (in this case, Star Trek II) is not something I do lightly, so it's a testament to the strength of Sofia Coppola's sophomore feature. Lost in Translation a personal story that will touch each viewer in a slightly different way. Some will respond most strongly to the sense of isolation. Others, to the stale comfort of an old relationship. Others, to the disconnectedness of being a stranger in a strange land. And still others, to the palpable sense of longing and sexual tension (there is closure to this film, but not consummation). Lost in Translation will impact those who take the time to absorb it far better than those who simply watch it. Impatience is fatal to a movie like this, which demands that we slip under its gentle spell. The screenplay, credited to Sofia Coppola, is far wiser than one would expect from so young a writer. I first saw Lost in Translation early during the 2003 Toronto Film Festival. When I exited the theater, blinking in the brilliant September sunshine, I exulted at the experience I had just undergone. I have since seen the movie twice more, and my estimation of it has not dimmed. Due to its relatively low placement in the Top 100, Lost in Translation may not remain there indefinitely, but, for a period at least, it is one of my 100 favorite motion pictures.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
The film details the "accidental" relationship that develops between Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). Bob, an internationally recognized actor on the downside of his career, is in Tokyo filming a series of ads for a whiskey company. Charlotte, a recent Yale graduate, is accompanying her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) on a business trip. However, she spends most of the time alone. Bob and Charlotte's first few encounters are casual - on an elevator, in a bar. Gradually, however, they begin to seek out one another and a bond develops. The two eventually spend nearly every waking hour together, holding deep conversations and finding ways to avoid the eventual parting that both know must occur.
Lost in Translation is smart and perceptive about how people interact on a personal level. It portrays the disorientation of the two main characters flawlessly. The rich dialogue sparkles, and spans a variety of topics. The relationship between Bob and Charlotte remains at the film's core, and remains platonic despite strong sexual undercurrents. A deep bond of friendship takes root, which leads to something more sublime than what we normally see between male and female characters in movies. The romantic tension starts out subtle, but builds until every frame throbs with it. Lost in Translation requires a certain amount of patience, but it is by no means a slow or lugubrious endeavor. Director Coppola has done what any young director wants to accomplish: improve upon a successful first feature. As good as The Virgin Suicides is, Lost in Translation is superior in almost every way.
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