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Lost in Translation

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/04/04 12:58:18

"A benchmark of modern cinema and the dawn of the next Coppola genius."
5 stars (Awesome)

It's probably predictable that some people would watch Lost in Translation and say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. Films like this, which bring wild applause, media hype and an original means of delivering the message are often ridiculed by those that don't get the point as being all fluff and wankery. Lost in Translation was never made to please the masses. It doesn't involve one car chase, puts emotion over lust, and forces you to think for yourself as to what is going on in the characters' minds. Deal with it.

Bill Murray is Bob Harris, an aging US movie star traveling to Japan to endorse Suntory Whisky. Clearly his life has seen more interesting phases, and he's only here for the quick and easy cash payoff, but Bob doesn't really need the money, and he sure as heck doesn't need to be sitting around, alone, in a Tokyo hotel while his wife faxes designs for his new office furniture for his approval.

Up a few floors, a different story is playing out. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a bored young wife of a boring young rock photographer (Giovanni Rbisi). At some point she obviously thought this artiste she's married to was a creative genius, but as his career takes off and his attentions wander to movie star Kelly (Anna Faris), Charlotte begins to lose it altogether. Alone in her hotel room, listening to self-help tapes for some kind of inspiration, she and Bob meet and something begins to brew.

At this point, your typical Hollywood writer/director begins the passionate lust, the secret meetings, tongues in ears and boobs in cameras. But Sofia Coppola has shown, not least of all with her first big directing outing, The Virgin Suicides, that she's not a cookie-cutter director. Lost in Translation is full of dialogue that you don't hear, voices that say nothing, and emotion that is kept inside. And that's what makes it great.

Look, reality is far different from a Ridley Scott movie. While most films are made with a rule in place that if it isn't said, it doesn't exist, audiences aren't always requiring such things out of their stories. I don't need Bill Murray to say "I'm sad and lonely and, though I can't have you, I really enjoy pretending that maybe I can," out loud, I can see it in his darn face when he looks at Scarlett Johansson across a karaoke box. And that is something I respect, because it respects ME enough to catch it, without shoving it down my throat.

Lost in Translation is consistently funny, consistently sad, consistently impressive and spooky. The music is a film in itself; I can say this, because I've listened to it on repeat fort almost a week and I'm not sick of it yet. But it's the quiet moments, when nothing at all is spoken, that appeal to me the most. Watching Murray and Johansson engage in an across-the-bar conversation without moving their lips is the stuff that only a daring filmmaker would write, and only a nutbar would put to film. Thankfully, a daring nutbar filmmaker is simply a long way of saying 'a genius' and, in my opinion, that's Sofia Coppola down to a T.

Shot on location for less than $4m, this is the kind of filmmaking that inspires generations of up and coming filmmakers to copy. Like Linklater did with Slacker and Smith did with Clerks, Lost in Translation will bring in the new wave of young filmmakers who realise the power of emotion and introspection and the audience thinking for themselves. And I, for one, can't wait.

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