Friday, 13 July 2012

Lost in Translation (2003)

We need to start cloning the Coppolas or something. I don't want to live in a world where nobody in that family is making films.  Sophia Coppola's acting career wasn't exactly anything to write home about, but she's inherited at least a little of her father's touch as director.

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson take the leads in a film about loneliness, ennui and feeling lost. The whole thing is done with a very soft touch; everything is deliberate  but never feels forced.  Coppola delivers a masterclass in how to develop a complex relationship between two characters with subtlety and gentleness. Bob, an over-the-hill actor, and Charlotte, an aimless college graduate, meet in a Tokyo hotel bar and hit it off almost immediately. Both are isolated from their partner, one by five thousand miles and the other by his distraction with work, and fill the void with their new friend. It's unclear throughout the whole film how either of them feel about the relationship, and among the audience of how they should feel. They aren't cheating on their partners, at least not in the traditional sense. Bob and Charlotte aren't simply looking for something like sex that they don't get from their partner, but something more personal: Bob's wife and kids don't need him around and Charlotte's husband seems to forget she exists. They're both desperately in need of a purpose and just someone to be a proper friend.

It's through an understated and intimately crafted script that all these themes comes through, as well as the trademark humour of Bill Murray. He brings a sardonic and weary sense of comedy to the film that reigns it back in from the brink of being a bit depressing and brings it back into "bittersweet" territory. This sort of "treading the line" between two states blends well into the ambiguity of Bob and Charlotte's connection. Is it an affair? Are they just friends or something more? It all culminates in an act that's left slightly hidden. We never find out what happens. Apparently some people on the internet, through some digital voodoo have figured out what transpires, but frankly I don't want to know.

If you haven't seen it drop whatever you're doing (if you're reading this, whatever you're doing can't be too thrilling anyway) and watch it now. It's amazing.

Or to bring the tone down a bit: Even if you aren't interested in a cleverly written, beautifully and subtly performed, amazingly scored (apart from one weird bit with a jarringly heavy guitar riff) and emotionally touching film, it's worth watching just for Scarlett Johansson being ridiculously fit for 90 minutes. 

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