I watched Lost in Translation again this morning. I think I may have to watch it a couple more times, because it’s a very subtle movie. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be one of my favourite movies.
The “story” is pretty well non-existent. Those looking for a plot will find little to occupythemselves. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a slightly washed up actor cashing in on his face and reputation in an advertising campaign for a Japanese Whiskey. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, holidaying in Japan while her photographer husband works on the promotional material for a film. The two characters are insomniacs, and meet at the bar of their hotel to find comfort and solace in the strange world they have come to occupy.
The entire film is carried in the nuances of their meetings. There isn’t much dialogue, it’s all glances, gestures, and expressions. This action through inaction is very oriental in flavour, and shows the raport between the characters better than the most witty banter could have. The silence is also very personal, very intimate. Though my view is that they have an affair, it is one purely of the heart, and I think that too makes it more intimate. I was reminded of the scene in the Last Samurai, where Algren is dressed in the clothes of the Samurai he killed; that scene was more intimate than most hollywood sex scenes. The whole of Lost in Translation is like that.
What dialogue there is is very skilfully constructed. It cuts to the very heart of its subject matter, without feeling glib. I never once felt that a character was being untrue in what it said. It is something I notice a lot on TV generall – characters taking a point of view or saying a line to serve the story, not reflect the previous character. Or, the inflation of lines, where the script batters the audience with its point.
The acting, as aluded to above, is superb. Johansson and Murray absolutely nail their roles down to the slightest inflection in tone, or facial position. The characters are vividly brought to life and I challenge anyone to find them unsympathetic.
Overall, this is a quiet movie, and I don’t think you can just sit down and jovially rumble along to watch it. It is introspective and subtle: if you’re not in that mindset, I think you could easily overlook it entirely.
In a lot of ways, this movie has a similar style to The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic; they are its comic cousins.
Note, the IMDB rates this 8.0/10, #188.