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Movies: Lost In Translation
Monday, 2004 April 5 - 1:12 am
This Oscar-winning movie from rookie writer/director Sophia Coppola is warm, subtle, and touching.

So first, there have been a lot of folks who wondered whether the portrayal of Japan in this movie was a fair one. As a Japanese-American, I'd say this: it sincerely portrays Japan as it would be seen through the eyes of an American. It isn't offensive in the least; it just doesn't really get at the depth of Japanese culture.

But that's okay, because that's the entire point. The country is supposed to feel foreign, and the two main characters (Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson) are supposed to be out of place. Their characters are lost, in life. They feel isolated in their existence, an isolation which only becomes apparent when magnified by the effect of being in a strange country.

That's really the extent of the movie. There's no huge conflict or intense drama here, no wild romance. It's more of a Zen-like observation on the human condition (making Japan an appropriate backdrop). The movie is about how the characters discover that they are not alone in their isolation, and that gives them hope.

It's a very subtle message, but an uplifting one. I found it refreshing that the movie did not fall into a war-of-the-sexes story line (except once; more on this in a moment). Instead, the movie treats men and women as equally lonely, equally put-upon, equally needy.

There is one totally unnecessary and out-of-place scene in this movie, where Bill Murray gets drunk and spends the night with a jazz singer. I can see where Coppola was trying to inject a dramatic moment into the movie, but this was not the way to do it; it runs contrary to the style of the rest of the movie.

But that aside, I found the story to be thoughtfully put-together. The direction was slow-paced, but never plodding. Bill Murray did a fine job (and he was Coppola's first choice, though I might have put Tom Hanks here instead). Scarlett Johannson was radiant and showed a good deal of range.

Overall, I'd say this was a good movie to see on a quiet night; not particularly energizing or thought-provoking, but rather, kind of soothing.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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Posted by Ken in: moviesreviews


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