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Lost in Translation (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; Behind the scenes; A conversation with Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola; Trailer; Kevin Shields music video 'City Girl'.

WORDS simply cannot do justice to the pleasure of watching Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s beautifully heartfelt, deeply thought-provoking, tale of two Americans, who form an unlikely relationship, while ‘lost’ in Tokyo.

Bill Murray provides a career-best performance as middle-aged actor, Bob, in town to film a whiskey commercial, who begins to realise how lonely his life has become, while struggling to get to grips with Japanese culture.

When he befriends the similarly lonely Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the young wife of a trendy photographer (Giovanni Ribisi), who is never around, the two form a surprising friendship, which forces each of them to confront where their lives are headed.

Murray, especially, is tremendously affecting as the fading actor, whose relationship with his wife has become emotionally-distant, despite her numerous phone calls and faxes about home improvements, and whose relationship with Charlotte represents a re-awakening of sorts, and a reminder of what it feels like to be alive.

Their ensuing relationship is touchingly portrayed, and a triumph of under-statement, refusing to go for the obvious, while remaining bitingly honest throughout.

Coppola infuses her picture with a dream-like quality, offering lingering shots of her characters set against the backdrop of Tokyo’s neon-lit landscapes, as well as a pitch-perfect score, which takes in the likes of Death in Vegas and The Jesus and Mary Chain, as well as original music from My Bloody Valentine’s founder, Kevin Shields.

She also strikes a nice balance between the drama and humour, with Murray neatly juggling his trademark suave persona with a hitherto untapped melancholy, which serves to make his transformation all the more poignant during the movie’s latter stages.

Whether singing karaoke, attempting to decipher the fragmented instructions of his Japanese directors, or interacting with the locals, he is a mesmerising presence, prone to human frailty, yet all the more likeable for being so down to earth.

It is a masterclass in subtlety from the actor, which must rate as a potential award-winner, and which more than repays back the faith put in him by Coppola (who insists she wrote the script with one name in mind).

Yet Johansson deserves just as much mention for her equally under-stated turn as Charlotte, building on a rapidly-growing reputation and contributing a great deal to the overall enjoyment of proceedings.

Her relationship with Bob is completely believable, in spite of the obvious age gap, and heartbreakingly honest, in that Coppola avoids the temptation of placing them in obvious scenarios (their relationship never becomes physical), while keeping things funny and sad throughout.

By the time the inevitable farewell rears its tragic head, there shouldn’t be a dry eye in the house, for this pulls at the heart-strings in a far more effective way than anything the mainstream has delivered in ages.

Thoughtful and endlessly inventive, this would rate among the top ten of any year’s best movies, and really looks destined to become a timeless classic. Rush to see it.

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