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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish
  Extras
  • 5 Deleted scenes
  • Featurette
  • Music video
  • Interviews
  • Short film - Matthew's Best Hit TV

Lost in Translation

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Lost in Translation is one of those films in which you sense the inevitable and are waiting for it and waiting for it and you wait so long it is suddenly too much to have waited for. Not to say thatís a bad thing Ė itís just the way it works so well.

Here we follow a brief chapter of Bob Harrisí life. Heís an aging actor (played by Bill Murray) who was much bigger then than he is now. However, he is being paid two million dollars to endorse a whiskey in Japan and is staying in a luxury hotel far away from his wife and children in America. Nearby, in the same hotel, Charlotte (Scarlett Johanson) is staying with her husband (Giovanni Ribisi), a photographer working with a rock band. The pair both suffer insomnia and boredom and soon, through numerous bumpings-into, they become friends and start discovering the fun that has been missing from their lives since they arrived in Japan.

It doesnít sound like much, but writer/director Sofia Coppola has brought to the screen a simple tale that is fraught with subtle humour, silent tragedy and a yearning belying the years of both protagonists. Bob, married for 25 years, has forgotten how to enjoy life while Charlotte expects much more from her youth. Together the pair rediscover their lives and who they are while simply conversing and hanging out doing nothing. Theirs is a subtle love story, told not in the conventional sense of soulmates finding each other amidst a strange locale, but of two similar bookends on different shelves. They are Americans immersed in a culture so alien they cling to each other to feel some familiarity Ė but a familiarity on their own terms. Together they find within themselves something they had lost, and find something new too; perhaps this is the Lost of the title then, being adrift in a foreign language, but also being adrift even amidst those you love and care for. The search for meaning and the search for self among a culture so opposingly different would naturally make it easier to find out who we are. What better place to shrug off the lives we are all too familiar with, to strip ourselves back to metal and see what ticks inside?

Iíve heard varying opinions of Lost in Translation and all I can say is this is a film everyone needs to see for themselves. Perhaps some just donít see anything of themselves in here, but for those amongst us who are willing to look a little deeper within - past the absent Hollywood sugar frosting - there is a true human gem here. The character portrayals are poignant and perfect. Bill Murray uses such a subtlety of expression to capture Bobís crumbling exterior, itís enough to make us wonder why someone hasnít thought to utilise him in similar roles. Scarlett Johanson plays the bored young wife superbly and the pair have a fabulous chemistry that works so auspiciously for the film. Many questions are left unanswered, but thatís okay, for they arenít all for us to know. What we learn is enough to piece the remains together ourselves and take from this film whatever it is we choose to. Some will take nothing. Some will take more than that. Personally, I took a lot from the film and am looking forward to watching it again to grab yet more.

This is a wholly subtle film that deals with some of the less grim, though no less important, issues of life as we know it. Sofia Coppola has brought to the film her unique style of gentleness and refinement that simply guides the storyline at us for us to make our own assumptions. It is beautifully shot and steers itself away from the horrors of sentimentality; instead carrying itself with grace and dignity for the duration.

  Video
Contract

Sofia Coppola has an amazing way of making the most mundane look somehow haunting. The long night shots of Tokyo with its myriad red and slow-glowing airplane warnings seems to capture the entire emotion of the film and here this, among numerous other shots, has been captured magnificently. The transfer hasnít necessarily been so kind to these images though. There are quite a few low-level grainy shots in the night scenes and the shadow detail is often sucked into the black void. However, those blacks are mostly true, with only one or two instances of a deeper blue. Delivered in the cinema aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement the film does look amazing, with the incredible contrast of traditional and modern Japan being executed as if done for the first time, and not clichťd as it usually is. Itís a very pretty picture, much as The Virgin Suicides is and the images lend themselves to the lyrical atmosphere brilliantly.

  Audio
Contract

Given us in the mostly standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround here, the sound is very nicely delivered. Musically, the film has been scored in a haunting manner, but again the contrast of Japanese television is used to remind us of the difference between the two. At times the music is so subtle as to barely be audible, but it is enough to know it is there and this also goes a ways to creating the dreamlike quality that Ms. Coppola seems to favour so.

Dialogue is nice and clear but for that one sentence in the end, but even that came across as almost audibly legible. The majority of lines are spoken very succinctly, but there is stacks of Japanese here that poor old me didnít understand. This isnít subtitled either (thankfully) and is used more as a language gag than anything (or perhaps the literal delivery of the filmís title). At any rate, we donít need to know what is being said. Thereís a translator for the bits we need. The rest is as alien to us as it is to the Americans in the story, and that is wholly the point.

  Extras
Contract

Quite a few, but not a lot of any real value. The first is Lost on Location, a 29:56 cast diary of sorts as they progress through the pre-production of the film. This is interesting for the first five minutes and doesnít really have all that much to offer us, but it is definitely worth a look, if for nothing else than its inclusion.

Matthewís Best Hit TV is hilarious in the film, and here the full 4:36 bit is given us from various cameras and ends in a most slippery manner in a big surprise we didnít see in the film. Funny stuff.

Kevin Shieldsí City Girl music video is next and this runs for the usual three minutes. Granted us in 1.78:1 without 16:9, this features some obviously unused film footage, so has that value in itself. Plus of course, the song is in the film and it is a very nice piece in its own right.

Five deleted scenes come after and, oddly, these donít seem to require context. Because thereís barely an easily defined progressive storyline, these random scenes are fine on their own. Worth a look, but those robots scared me a little. Theyíre just creepy, thatís all.

Finally, A Conversation with Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola is a fairly pleasant interview of sorts in which Bill Murray seems to do most of the actual conversing. Oddly, this is filmed in Rome too, of all places. Mostly this is a boring little discussion of the film, but Iím sure some folks out there will find some depth to it that was sorta lost on me.

So as I say, not a lot there of any real value, but thatís just me. Maybe they all sound like the best extras youíve ever heard of, in which case go nuts, have a blast and knock yourself out.

  Overall  
Contract

Such subtlety in storytelling isnít so common these days, and here Sofia Coppola has delivered a lilting and delicate exploration of a friendship forged under unique circumstances. The interplay and chemistry between Murray and Johanson is perfect and neither come across as the wrong person for the role. In whole, this is a love story, but it is also a life story and one simply told.

Perhaps you may have trouble finding the answers to your questions here, but if you look a little closer, I feel sure all of them are here and personally, Iím looking forward to finding what I can the next time around.

Well worth a rental with a view to buying, at the very least.


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      And I quote...
    "Subtlety is everything to this film. Subtlety of nuance, of expression and of story all combine to give a film of unusually intricate simplicity."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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