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As an update to MamaT's earlier post on Lost in Translation in which she speculated that I would like this movie more than she did, I must tell you that she was sooo right on!

First of all, I know why this film has been nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Director). Lost in Translation is incredible and rewarding. Hey, itís incredibly rewarding.

I haven't laughed out loud this heartily in ... oh, I don't even know how long. And I haven't felt this sad for such unassuming characters in ages. In fact, I donít think Iíve cared at all for characters this unassuming. Translation is probably the best character-driven melodrama Iíve ever seen, and I assure you that Iím not in the habit of tossing out accolades. If I have any bias it comes from the fact that the comedy is extremely subtle . . . and, while it is a characteristic I simply do not possess, I adore subtlety. Also, Iíve always been intrigued by themes of isolation and itís actually refreshing to see such a sober theme done with heart and done well. It was also surprisingly metaphysical: both characters are lost in translation. They understand neither the Japanese culture nor the language and both characters are really lost, lost in more ways than one. Charlotte is emotionally and physically abandoned by her husband, while Bob just seems misplaced Ė both in his marriage and his career.

Make no mistake, Bill Murray earns his Oscar nod. This is the first time Iíve seen him actually acting like a bona-fide grown-up, and he's darn great at it. His character, Bob, is so ingeniously complex Ė dry yet gentle, sly but vulnerable. I couldnít help but wonder what his wife was missing. But thatís the beauty of this film; it brings home the fact that we are all so flawed, but essentially redeemable. Murray is not only witty, heís delightful and charming.

Scarlet Johansson, who plays Charlotte, is virtually a fetus when it comes to both age and acting, but it would be unfair to simply dismiss her ability because sheís really good. Perhaps her role doesnít appear all that demanding; regardless, she plays lost, nay disengaged, very well. I actually felt sorry for Charlotte and was somehow drawn to her -- she embodies Japanimation with her wide eyes and collagenized lips, that perpetual "baby" look that brings out the maternal in me, I guess. The fact that sheís a Yale graduate stumped me at first. But again, thatís the genius of the movie. That little nugget just proves that even smart people can make really stupid mistakes when it comes to love.

There is absolutely no doubt that the film was directed by a woman (Sofia Coppola Ė up for two awards, one for writing the screenplay and one for directing it). If Iím not mistaken this is only her second film. Itís an incredible argument for Nature over Nurture. The most uncomfortable scene is the strip club scene, but under Coppolaís direction, it is survivable and important. Bob's disinterest and disenchantment with the whole skin-show scene are palpable, and when he reaches out to steady the whore, itís pure compassion on his characterís part. No one but a woman could manage to direct that Ė no one but a woman would even think to write it. Whatís more, as MamaT pointed out, the main characters, while deeply drawn to each other, do not indulge in adultery. I can practically guarantee that if a man had directed Translation, theyíd have managed to get it onÖeven if they would have had to get rip roaring drunk in order to "trip" into it. No offense fellas, but you know it's true. Coppala makes sure you understand that what you're witnessing is a friendship, not lust. Yes, Bob is in the throws of a mid-life crisis and, yes, Charlotte, for all her learnin', has only a tentative grasp of the real world and is charmed by this older man's acumen, but this is camaraderie...born of necessity perhaps, but true nonetheless.

The icing on the cake? The score. I really want this soundtrack. The dream-pop lazy music is perfect for the heavy sigh feeling Bob and Charlotte roam around in most of the time.

In a word, Lost in Translation is brilliant.

And, for those of you who've seen the film . . . lip my stockin!

8 Comments

Well, I am off to rent 'Lost' today. What a well written review. Your character descriptions reminded me of The Accidental Tourist. Have you seen that movie? It too has the most unassuming characters in it.
Thanks!

I've got to see this! Thanks, Smockmomma!

Possible teaser alert - do not read if you haven't seen it.

What did you think of the enigmatic ending? Just what *did* Bob whisper to Charlotte or is that mystery part of the movie's mystique for you?

You are one of many to recommend this movie so highly, so I looked it up on screenit.com and they say that there is adultery, only it is not seen, just implied. Funny thing is I have less of a problem with that than the strip club. For the wives out there: how do you feel about watching strippers bare T&A with your husband? It's something I'd rather avoid, but am I in the minority?

tso - i've seen this movie three times now and i am no closer to a real answer than the first time i saw it. smockhub and i discussed it tonight and we both agree that he's probably assuring charlotte that's she's a great kid and that john will come around.

kh - the whole point of the strip club scene is that bob does not want to be there. acquaintances of charlotte's ask them to meet there (they do not know what type of place it is, remember they are in an alien city) -- when charlotte arrives late, she "rescues" bob and they leave. if you are uncomfortable with the nudity it wouldn't hurt to fast forward the scene. and yes, there is implied adultery later in the film. i did warn that we're dealing with flawed characters.

great scene:
Bob: It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.
Charlotte: It's scary.
Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.
Charlotte: Nobody ever tells you that.
Bob: Your life, as you know it ... is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk ... and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.
Charlotte: That's nice.

KH: When there's nudity or other "inappropriate viewing" for the husband in an otherwise worthwhile scene, he averts his eyes. You are certainly not alone in being sensitive to these things, my husband and I are both pretty vigilant about it. Haven't seen this film nor have we considered it so can't comment on whether we'd judge it worth the problematic parts.

Thought you might like this exchange between Ham of Bone and I:

Ham: "Watched 'Lost In Translation' last night. For the most part, I loved it. Lived up to its billing.

BUT

I'm starting to spot a predictable trend here after just finishing up another May-December romance called 'The Human Stain'. I have a theory why we will see more of this as the baby boomers age: relative maturity levels. Everyone
knows that women mature (emotionally) faster than men and I would propose that the technology revolution has further stunted men's emotional growth while women's have remained fairly stable.
The fifty-year-old male is nowhere near the emotional quotient of his predecessor of 100, or even 50, years ago. So, the young woman who seeks emotional fulfillment must look for the tired graying temples type to find it.
Concerning the opening scene of a body double's
derriere, I felt manipulated by the director's blatant attempt to focus the audience by prurience. Minus that scene and the gratuitous strip club scene, I would say that this was one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen in a while."

ME: "It was extremely manipulative, but unfortunately manipulation works on me some times. Agree wid you on the May-December thing. But I see it as more basic than that (although less in this film than others). It's the meeting of base needs. Women want money/security. Men want sex. Younger woman/older man is the pluperfect way to accomplish that. But of course in "Lost in Translation" the woman really wants intimacy rather than security. And Bill Murray wants the same, since he doesn't seem to be overly lustful towards her. The film is nearly iconic in its depiction of alienation as Murray heads towards the hotel in cab and looks at the bewildering city."

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This page contains a single entry by smockmomma published on February 13, 2004 6:47 PM.

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