Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation (2003) movie poster

(2003) dir. Sofia Coppola
viewed: 10/06/03 at Loews Theatre at the Metreon, SF, CA

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, I thought, was excellent. Having seen her previous film, The Virgin Suicides (1999), I wasn’t necessarily thinking that I would like this film so well. The Virgin Suicides seemed like it was reaching to capture a time and place and feeling, a vibe or something. To some extent, it succeeded at that. But it also had this unconvincing, uninvolving plot line about the titular event that just seemed ridiculous and pretentious to me. I remember loathing the film’s denouement considerably.

Lost in Translation has some similar airs about it. It creates a feeling of place and a recognizable feeling of dislocation. The story is an almost platonic love story, quite thin if described. What’s amazing about it, though, is how well it communicates the sensations that its characters are supposed to be experiencing. It’s also a vibe, an experience with a lot less narrative (comparatively), and it just plain works.

It made me really want to go to Japan, despite the fact that the film depicts characters that are utterly lost and confused there, seeing it broadly and specifically as outsiders, amused but lonely, in a country very different from their homeland. In this sense, it reminded me vaguely of Wim Wenders’ Tokyo-Ga (1985), which was a strange documentary that more or less documented Wenders’ outsider’s fascination with Tokyo. That’s probably a pretty weird comparison, but it came to mind. Coppola’s perspective is that of a visitor/tourist, who is trying to understand the culture, the people, and the place without a translator, without a guide. It’s sort of an impossible situation. The perception is one of bemusement, but acknowledged as utterly incomplete and yet very personal.

Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are both excellent. This is probably my favorite new movie that I have seen in the theater this year. Any other oozing and praise that I could do for it will sound like a million other things that you would read elsewhere, so I will leave it at that.

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