Lost in Translation (2003)

How can anybody get bored and get stuck in a hotel in the middle of Tokyo. Anyway, I love this movie. It took me three days to watch it for out-of-my-control reasons. I like the soundtrack, the actors, the scenes, the story. Even the end wasn’t disappointing to me.

Lost in Translation is a 2003 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It was her second feature film after The Virgin Suicides (1999). It stars Bill Murray as aging actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel.

Lost in Translation received critical acclaim and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director for Coppola; Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay. Murray and Johansson each won a BAFTA award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role respectively. The film was a commercial success, grossing $119 million on a budget of $4 million.

Plot

Bob Harris, an aging American movie star, arrives in Tokyo to film an advertisement for Suntory whisky. Charlotte, a young college graduate, is left in her hotel room by her husband, John, a celebrity photographer on assignment in Tokyo. Charlotte is unsure of her future with John, feeling detached from his lifestyle and disillusioned about their relationship. Bob’s own 25-year marriage is strained as he goes through a midlife crisis.

Each day Bob and Charlotte encounter each other in the hotel, and finally meet at the hotel bar one night when neither can sleep. Eventually Charlotte invites Bob to meet with some local friends of hers. The two bond through a fun night in Tokyo, welcomed without prejudice by Charlotte’s friends and experiencing Japanese nightlife and culture. In the days that follow, Bob and Charlotte’s platonic relationship develops as they spend more time together. One night, each unable to sleep, the two share an intimate conversation about Charlotte’s personal troubles and Bob’s married life.

On the penultimate night of his stay, Bob sleeps with the hotel bar’s female jazz singer. The next morning Charlotte arrives at his room to invite him for lunch and overhears the woman in his room, leading to an argument over lunch. Later that night, during a fire alarm at the hotel, Bob and Charlotte reconcile and express how they will miss each other as they make a final visit to the hotel bar.

The following morning, Bob is set to return to the United States. He tells Charlotte goodbye at the hotel lobby and sadly watches her walk back to the elevator. In a taxi to the airport, Bob sees Charlotte on a crowded street and gets out and goes to her. He embraces the tearful Charlotte and whispers something in her ear. The two share a kiss, say goodbye and Bob departs.

Cast

  • Bill Murray as Bob Harris
  • Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte
  • Giovanni Ribisi as John
  • Anna Faris as Kelly
  • Fumihiro Hayashi as Charlie Brown
  • Akiko Takeshita as Ms. Kawasaki
  • François Du Bois as the Pianist
  • Takashi Fujii as TV host
  • Hiromix as herself

Over the course of the film, several things are “lost in translation”. Bob (Murray), a Japanese director (Yutaka Tadokoro), and an interpreter (Takeshita) are on a set, filming a commercial for Suntory whisky (specifically, 17-year-old Hibiki). In several exchanges, the director gives lengthy, impassioned directives in Japanese. These are invariably followed by brief, incomplete translations from the interpreter.

  • Director [in Japanese, to the interpreter]: The translation is very important, O.K.? The translation.
  • Interpreter [in Japanese, to the director]: Yes, of course. I understand.
  • Director [in Japanese, to Bob]: Mr. Bob. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then there is a bottle of Suntory whisky on top of the table. You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, “Here’s looking at you, kid,”—Suntory time!
  • Interpreter [In English, to Bob]: He wants you to turn, look in camera. O.K.?
  • Bob: …Is that all he said?

In addition to the meaning and detail lost in the translation of the director’s words, the two central characters in the film—Bob and Charlotte—are also lost in other ways. On a basic level, they are lost in the alien Japanese culture. But in addition, they are lost in their own lives and relationships, a feeling, amplified by their displaced location, that leads to their blossoming friendship and growing connection with one another.

By her own admission, Coppola wanted to create a romantic movie about two characters that have a moment of connection. The story’s timeline was intentionally shortened to emphasise this moment. Additionally, Coppola has said that since “there’s not much happening in the story besides [Bob and Charlotte’s relationship]”, the filmmakers tried to keep an ongoing tension.

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