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Lost in Translation

September 5, 2010

Lost in Translation (2003)
Director: Sofia Coppola
Actors: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi

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Synopsis: A washed-up actor (Bill Murray) and a neglected young wife (Scarlett Johansson) become kindred spirits in Tokyo.

Review: This is a film whose whole adds up to greater than the sum of its technical parts. On a character/dramaturgical level the movie offers overly easy, unattractive stereotyping of the Japanese people and dumb-ass Americans, and some of the early sequences are vastly over-reliant on Bill Murray’s charm and improvisation skills.

The movie is rescued though by its unqualified success in nailing that air of disorientation and alienation one encounters in a strange foreign environment (note – it’s entirely permissible for Coppola to be presenting Japanese culture as jarring and ‘different’, and a necessary window to reflect on one’s own personal well-being, but I object to when it slips into condescension and one-dimensionalising of the Japanese sensibility as simply ‘the other’).  Lost in Translation also uncannily taps into how some of the most powerful and resonant connections made are often the most ephemeral and transitory. Sofia Coppola deserves credit here, because her distanced, elliptical narration has elicited a wonderfully natural and convincing rapport between Murray and a gorgeous Scarlett Johansson. (October 2005)

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