Did you know?
Sophia Coppola's father is Oscar Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola and is married to director Spike Jonze.
Bill Murray joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in its second season.
Scarlett Johansson made her film debut in "North" at the age of ten.



All photos courtesy of Focus Features.

"Lost in Translation" is a Great Find

By Bobby Okinaka

"Lost in Translation" starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson is one movie that isn't lost. This voyeuristic film by Sofia Coppola ("The Virgin Suicides") knows exactly where it's going in telling a sobering tale of two lost souls who find solace in each other's company in the neon-lined steel and concrete streets of Tokyo.

All photos courtesy of Focus Features.

Murray, who has made a career as an irreverent comedian, delivers an exceptional performance in a serious role as Bob, a washed up actor turned high-priced pitchman for Suntory Whiskey. Not only has Bob's career gone down like a kamikaze, his marital relationship is wistfully maintained by fax machine and abrupt late night phone calls.

While billed as a drama, Murray masterfully applies subtle touches of comedy in showing differences between cultures. Bob is in Tokyo for a photo shoot. In an absurd dialogue between Bob and the Suntory art director, the director's Japanese instructions are lost in translation with humorous results, staying literal to the film's title.

All photos courtesy of Focus Features.

Johansson plays Charlotte, the wife of a photographer who hasn't yet discovered herself. She wanders the streets of Tokyo and visits shrines as if seeking some kind of spiritual revelation. Only when she meets Bob does she find a kind of unspoken acceptance that allows her to smile.

The bond that they form is unconventional. Both are married and the age gap that separates them is apparent, yet a strong connection forms instantly. The connection is not based on love or lust or even loneliness. It has something to do with being found.
I won't give away what happens between Bob and Charlotte, but it certainly leaves you satisfied.

Through Coppola's storytelling, Tokyo becomes an integral character in the movie. Many of the scenes take place in the Tokyo Park Hyatt, a high-class hotel that occupies the top 14 floors of a 52-story skyscraper in the Shinjuku district in the heart of Tokyo. The hotel is a world within a world, almost like a castle in the sky. From the top of the city, the panoramas of the megalopolis below only accentuate the vast emptiness that Bob and Charlotte are feeling.

My favorite scene is in the karaoke room when Bob and Charlotte are enjoying a night out in the ultra hip Tokyo underground with some local scenesters. Watching them sing made me nostalgic for when I lived in Japan as an English teacher. An intimate level of social bonding takes place within that small room that Coppola captures definitively. And as you can see (and hear) in this scene, karaoke is not about singing well, it's about enjoying yourself.

Anyone who has lived in Japan will agree Coppola crafts a sublime piece that immerses you into the heart of Tokyo. For the price of admission, you are saving the cost of a round trip ticket to Japan because watching this film is like being a sightseer but so much more: you actually get to live and indulge in Tokyo culture vicariously through these two characters that Murray and Johansson so amazingly bring to life.

October 10, 2003



© APMN, Tom Plate.