is a film “about nothing” that holds our attention and
wins our hearts nonetheless, as writer/Director Sofia Coppola eloquently
turns back the veil to allow a glimpse at the innermost recesses
of the human heart. Despite a few missteps (artsy shots, like the
pink panty clad butt opening, a grating Giovanni Ribisi), it’s
a lovely jazz riff on exile and the indispensable need for a place
and Scarlet Johansson illuminate Coppola’s screenplay with
humor and emotional depth. Movie star Bob Harris (Murray), is lost
in Tokyo in a fog of jet lag and middle-aged angst. There he meets
Charlotte (Johansson) another American, who is enveloped in her
own anomie. He is filming a whiskey commercial for $2 million when
he should be doing a play; she is a newly minted philosophy grad
not quite sure of who she is or what to do next, and whom, other
than her shallow Hal husband, she might do it with.
They meet in
the hotel’s fortress/bar that’s filled with other dislocated
international travelers. It’s a haven for expatriates, like
Sam’s in Casablanca, faux Western in every way, even down
to the cheesy lounge singer. Both Charlotte and Bob watch the light
and movement just beyond the tall windows, yearning to be part of
it, but always at a safe distance.
in Tokyo is doubled in the dislocation each of them feels in their
emotional life; they yearn also to be without fear, part of someone,
seen and understood. At the beginning of the film, Charlotte visits
a Buddhist shrine and is devastated when she doesn’t feel
anything. Only later, when she watches a traditional and elaborate
wedding party, the groom offering his strong hand to his beloved,
does she get it. It’s the connection between them, not the
costume and panoply, that is sacred. Bob’s wife is back home;
we know her only as a disembodied voice on the cell phone. Again
and again, he dutifully recites his husband lines to her, as their
marital truce demands, in a monotone as numbed as his feelings --
a standout monologue and a great performance.
two eventually, inevitably return to their lives, to their assigned
spaces. But Bob cannot brush this aside as a meaningless encounter.
He interrupts the cab ride to the airport to run after Charlotte.
He whispers something to her that we cannot hear; their embrace
and the look of relief and joy on her face is all we need to know.
Murray the serious actor now owns the territory of the wounded comic
soul and surpasses his work even in Rushmore, my previous
favorite. Luminous and intelligent, Johansson holds her own as his
Lance Acord’s nighttime Tokyo shimmers from afar, tantalizingly
out of reach, and the Tokyo Pop and American oldies help define
the oft-clashing cultures. The aesthetic choices of the film are
more than happy accidents; this is the work of a skilled filmmaker.
With Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola earns her place
at the table alongside the best of them.
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Copyright Web del Sol, 2003