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Feb 8, 2004

Lost In Translation 

Two words. Good Movie. A very natural movie, with its under exposed shots, reflections on the windows and slow but not so-boring pace give it a sense of life as if you are living it. Sophia Coppola's second directorial venture (not counting her first short) might not make it to the top ten greatest movies of all time, but it is definitely one of the year's best.

Two strangers who share a common language - English and a common feeling - loneliness, are brought together by chance, in the throbbing metropolis of Tokyo. Bill Murray plays a role which seems to have been written just for him and the second character in question, Scarlett Johansson is a pleasant discovery. In choosing her it seems like Sophia Coppola's Italian lineage took precedence because unlike the usual Hollywood starlets, Ms.Johanssen is not extremely thin nor does have the fresh label straight out of the plastic surgeon's office. Bill Murray's character is so credible that next time you meet him you might call him "Hey, Mr.Bob Harris!" I don't know how much I can relate to Johansson's character, but then, we are all different persons and it could be very much possible to find a mirror image of her character somewhere in real life. The only thing I didn't understand is the opening shot, showing Johansson's curvaceous booty - alright, lets give that one away as Ms Coppola's way of expressing her artistic freedom, afterall she gave us a good movie.

The movie also provides fleeting but memorable glances of Japan, its pop culture, its urbanism and also its serene side which Ms. Johansson's character experiences in the gardens of Kyoto. There is not much of a story except the escapades of the twosome in the strange but interesting city and their humurous brushes with the language and culture of Japan. There are lot of genuine funny moments in the film which never venture anywhere near slapsticky, my favorite one is one in the beginning of the film where Bob Harris is shooting a video commercial for Suntory Whiskey. The director of the ad-film spits out a paragraph of intense Japanese oratory and the female translator, translates that to Bob Harris as, "he wants you to turn towards the camera". Harris is flabbergasted, he asks his translator "Is that all he said, I thought there was more?". Exactly what a person whose command of Japanese begins and ends with sayanora would ask, which I think includes the majority of us. It is an extremely sensitive issue to find fun in language discrepencies, especially that involving a foreign culture without sounding offensive or racist. Sophia Coppola treads that thin line in this movie and leaves us at a point where we might want to travel to this interesting country. Whether it deserves an Oscar is an altogether different question, watch it and decide for yourselves.