Film Fridays – ‘Lost in Translation’

Film Fridays is a project initiated by Sarah and I. After doing a daily music challenge for a month last year we talked about doing something similar for movies. The current global lockdowns give us the perfect excuse to start. Many of us are confined to home with only the TV for company so we thought we would start β€˜Film Fridays’ so that we can talk about our favourite movies and hopefully give our readers some ideas for things to watch. If you join us please tag filmfriday and link back to one or both of us so we can read your own contributions!

We would be delighted if you would join us! We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in out hearts, and any personal memories they evoke. 

Sarah and I have shared our lists and decided to tackle them as written – but in my case I have diverged from this plan according to my mood.

‘Lost in Translation’ (2003)

The trailer is on Youtube but instead I am going to show this great montage from the movie set to its main featured song: – HERE

This is a movie that has been on my mind a lot recently so it has become the obvious choice for this Friday.

The movie follows famous but jaded actor Bob, unhappy with his life and 25 year marriage, spending a few days in Tokyo to film a Suntory whisky commercial. And Charlotte, a young woman in her 20s staying at the same hotel with her celebrity photographer husband who leaves her to her own devices as he hangs out with the celebrity friends she dislikes. Both characters are feeling isolated, disconnected and lost . A few chance encounters lead to Bob and Charlotte spending a fun evening together with her Japanese friends and a deep platonic connection develops between these kindred spirits.

As someone who has felt like a fish out of water for much of his life and isolated at the deepest level, this movie resonates with me. As does its presentation of a friendship between two people of different sex and generations as something that does not have to be creepy or weird. This alone is a testament to how finely judged both the performances and the direction are.

As a movie it totally defies classification. It is closest to being a rom-com but the ‘romance’ is non-sexual. Indeed, director Sofia Coppola forces the viewer to examine their own expectations by opening the movie with a long, though un-erotic, shot of Charlotte in her underwear. In fact the first time I watched this film with my wife she gave me the side-eye as she was not sure what kind of movie I had chosen and was clearly deciding if she should go all puritanical at me…

Cinematography is a big part of my enjoyment of any movie and this film is beautifully shot, Tokyo looks amazing. The soundtrack, mostly 90s ‘shoegaze’, is fantastic and Coppola even got Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine to compose original tracks for it. Star Scarlett Johansson has since appeared on stage with Jesus and Mary Chain to perform their song ‘Just Like Honey’ which featured in the movie.

Ultimately though, it is the two central performances that make this movie spellbinding. Bill Murray gives a career-best performance as Bob – a part written with him in mind but it took over a year for Coppola to get him to do it. Scarlett Johansson was, amazingly, only 17 when she played this part of a married woman in her 20s and is utterly convincing. The chemistry between the two is tangible.

Favourite scenes:

  • A weary Bob receiving a couriered box of flooring samples from his wife and being expected to choose between the fairly identical shades when he clearly doesn’t give a damn and thought he had escaped for a few days. Been there.
  • A beautifully shot scene of Charlotte wandering alone.
  • The conversation late at night when both can’t sleep.
  • The karaoke scene.
  • The final scenes to ‘Just Like Honey’ move me to tears.

The depiction of Tokyo has had some criticism for its superficial depiction of the Japanese and their culture. I can see their point (there is a cringe-worthy scene with a ‘lady of negotiable affection’ and her accent especially) but when I first watched this movie I saw it in the way intended – that Tokyo is portrayed through the viewpoint of the two leads who feel totally alien there.

Notes:

  • The zany TV show ‘Matthew’s Best Hit TV’ on which Bob appears in the movie is a real show which has run since 2001.
  • Oh – and despite my loyalties to Scotland – Suntory do make superb whisky. Their ‘Yamazaki’ was the runaway favourite against all-Scottish rivals at a ‘blind’ whisky tasting I went to in 2006 and I immediately tracked a bottle down once I got over the hangover. Which was several days later..

There is a comment on Youtube which sums up my feelings:

” Wish I could see this movie for the first time again”

25 Comments

  1. That comment sums it up perfectly for so many films!
    I loved Lost in Translation even though I’ve watched it only once. Bill Murray’s one of my favourite actors (ever since Ghostbusters πŸ˜‰) and I remember how sad he looked when he didn’t get the Academy Award for his performance in this film (it was this one, wasn’t it?). He’s really amazing and getting better with each film which should be impossible but somehow he does. And Scarlett Johansson is amazing too and one of those women you just can’t be envious of even though she has it all: talent, looks – she can even sing!! (Damn unfair if you ask me. πŸ˜‚ And yet it’s just too enjoyable watching her act so wtf πŸ˜‚)
    Also love Sophia Coppola, she’s so good!
    Brilliant film to pick for the challenge, Darren! ❀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Sarah.
      Bill Murray really deserved that Oscar. He is brilliantly funny anyway but this was a really challenging role and had to be pitched perfectly for his character not to come across as sleazy. He nailed it.
      Scarlett Johansson is wonderful indeed but don’t be jealous and I won’t be jealous of Sam Neill, OK? I think she has been treated badly in the MCU and I am glad that Black Widow will get her own movie soon. And yes – that comment applies to numerous films and the obvious one for me was Raiders of the Lost Ark which had me leavingvthe cinema so thrilled afterwards.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I saw this on a plane, which probably explains why I couldn’t connect with it. Just watching (and especially listening) to your clip has made me want to try again(the movie, not flying β€” yet). Thanks Darren.

    And the quote is perfect for a few other movies I can think of too πŸ‘πŸ‘

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a great movie. I’ve only seen it once but I could definitely see myself rewatching it and you’re doing a good job of convincing me. The good ones put you in a mood and Lost in Translation does that. As an expat in an Asian country, it’s particularly funny as it is relatable, but in a different way than how you do. What sticks out is Bill Murry trying to do the commercial. That’s what it’s like sometimes, performing and doing something that makes zero sense but you want to do the “right” thing and get it over with. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh, this has bought back memories! Haven’t seen it for years but I do remember how much I enjoyed it. And yeah, that scene where he had to choose between those tiles, was a cracker. Bill Murray is a great actor and this movie really did seem tailor made for him. 😎

    Liked by 1 person

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