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Lost in Translation
DVD disk
10.06.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Lost in Translation order
Sofia Coppola

Bill Murray
Scarlett Johansson
Giovanni Ribisi


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A fading American actor (Murray) loses the meaning of his life while in Tokyo to film a commercial. Sleepless in a fancy hotel barroom, he meets a young girl (Johansson) who has just as many unanswered questions and whose busy husband can't spare much time for her. This unlikely pairing give each other company, comfort and ultimately...hope, as they face the unknown ahead.
We've all had those long sleepless nights, tossing and turning in a sweat-soaked bed and thinking up crazy things that would never cross our mind in any other situation. Sofia Coppola puts together a sweet, funny and tremendously engaging film about two people who seemingly have nothing in common, but who are both trapped in a foreign land and desperate for someone who can understand their state of confusion. It's basically a two-actor film driven by perfect performances. Murray, as Bob Harris, is excellent as an actor with a good heart who seems to be trapped in a falsehood of a life and who most of all, dreads having the time to realize it. His character always seems like one who's torn, but who feels he has the duty to entertain those around him. Who better to play such a character than a man who is, above being a brilliant comedian, a brilliant actor. Johansson is also great, playing a girl who is as smart as she is lovely and leaving no one to wonder why Bob Harris would get so attached to her in such a short period of time.

A key to enjoying this movie is to avoid falling into the trap of taking it too seriously and attempting to figure out the great statement that it might be trying to get across. It certainly doesn't fall into the usual structure of a film and too often, a film that tries to be different is dismissed as "artsy-fartsy" hoopla. LOST IN TRANSLATION never really sets a definite goal for itself, wandering aimlessly much like its characters. Neither does it move at a regular pace, attempting to keep a certain story in place. It's very simply a look into a few days of the lives of some very interesting people who seem to wonder out loud about many of the questions we all have, but rarely bother to ask. It really bears witness to Coppola's sense of observation.

There's also the matter of the environment in which the movie takes place. Tokyo is a world a way both literally and figuratively. The non-stop lights, noise and movement make it hard to imagine how anyone could ever sleep in the city, let alone people who are alone and slightly depressed. There are some downright hilarious moments courtesy of the huge cultural gap between Murray and his hosts, chief among them his appearance on a show hosted by some insane dude in a rainbow suit (Matthew Minami) who in real life is apparently a well-known talk show host. Murray exploits those differences in his usual dry-wit manner in a very funny way. All these great things being said though, this is really a film you have to connect with in order to appreciate and it could easily go right over one's head. It's not for everyone and don't be surprised if two people watch it together and end up with entirely different opinions. There's nothing wrong with that, it just comes with the territory when you make an unusual movie. It'll end up being unusually good for some and unusually bad for others.
A couple of nice little things here, but nothing to blow anyone's top off:

"Lost" on Location (30 mins.): This handheld feature follows Coppola and producer Ross Katz on location during pre-production and filming. It's pretty interesting for a little while, but soon ends up making you either nauseous or confused about why it's going on for so long. You definitely get to pick up a few more tidbits about the movie though.

Matthew's Best Hit TV (5 mins.): This is the fake shoot made by Murray on Matthew Minami's TV show, excerpts of which are used in the film. Matthew is probably the only dude in the world who could make Pee Wee Herman look like as boring and mature as my accountant and he's flat out, pedal-to-metal hilarious. Murray really reacts well to him though and pretty soon, it looks like a real talk show going on.

Kevin Shields' "City Girl" Video (3 mins.): This is a pretty cool song that was used in the film and that pretty much defines its tone. The video contains some clips from the movie as well. Not too familiar with Mr. Shields' work, but this is a pretty good sample of it.

Deleted Scenes (10 min.): Five scenes are included, but none that really break any ground as far as the film goes. They're mostly extended scenes that just would have run too long.

A conversation with Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola (10 mins.): Every movie that gains a certain amount of recognition, usually reaches the Oscars with one predominant story about it which becomes its "thing". By the time this gets posted, we'll probably all be sick of hearing about how Coppola wrote this part specifically for Bill Murray and wouldn't have shot the movie if he hadn't been a part of it. It's a cute story that's discussed here among other topics between Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray and Bill Murray's beard.

The Theatrical Trailer is also included.
This is a great, inspiring movie that ranges from heartbreaking to hilarious and includes a few scenes which people may well be discussing and debating for the next few years. It's definitely not for everyone though, so a rental would be suggested if you're suspicious of any of the participants, but a purchase, even a blind one, would be a successful venture for most. Great acting, a great story and a great looking film make for some rock solid entertainment on this DVD.
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