26 Feb 2011

Lost In Translation - Sofia Coppola - Film

I'm deeply impressed by everything in this film - the acting, the storyline, the camera shots, the music, the location, the costume, the script - literally, everything.  I think it's a fine piece of work, and I'm going to tell you why.

To begin, it's a great example of female directing at it's best.  I haven't seen any of Coppola's other films (The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette and more), but I do intend to.  I felt the film had a very subtle dry tone running consistently right the way through it.

I felt the main contributors to this tone were the location of the film and the music used in the film.  Tokyo, Japan is one of the places I know I have to visit.  Most places in the world incur a 'well I'd like to go but I'm not dead set' attitude, but Tokyo (and Japan in general) incurs a relentless fascination and interest.  In addition various people I know who have actually been to Japan tell me it provides a very accurate insight into Tokyo.

Places in the East are so massively different in customs and norms to the West that it is the perfect place in which to tell the story of two confused Westerners.  The location is symbolic of how Charlotte and Bob feel - that is, they are foreigners in a foreign place but as the story unfolds the viewer learns that this is exactly how they feel at home too.  They are both trying to communicate with the people around them and closest to them but cannot seem to get their message across - their words are lost in translation.  This is shown perfectly when Charlotte calls up a friend/relative in tears but her friend is too busy to listen.

The music is amazing.  After I bought and watched this film I then bought the soundtrack.  It's so urban, relaxing and ambient and really well chosen for the film.  My favourites are the credits song (City Girl - Kevin Shields) and the closing song (Just Like Honey - Jesus and Mary Chain).  There is also the wonderful Girls - Death in Vegas, which I liked so much that I then went and bought their album Scorpio Rising!  So all in all my love for this film has made various people a little bit richer.

Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, is an intelligent newlywed who is struggling to understand her husband (Giovanni Ribisi), herself and pretty much everyone around her - I love the scene in which she and her husband go for drinks with an actress (Anna Faris) and her friend.  I thought Anna Faris was great at playing Kelly, who pretty much encompasses everything one might find intolerable about a person.  I thought maybe she symbolised what sort of people Charlotte was up against at home.

Bob, played by Bill Murray, is an actor who appears to be past his hey day - hence his visit to Tokyo to film advertisements promoting a whisky brand - and whose marriage has reached a bleak point which I imagine the vast majority of newlyweds fear.

The two of them happen to be staying in the same hotel and become friends after an early morning ecounter in the bar - neither of them can sleep.  They form a friendship based on mutual dismay and loneliness.  A sad, hilarious and touching series of events then ensue.  A surprising aspect of the film is that they do not have an affair.  I do not even think they are attracted to each other, I think they merely find solice and comfort in each other's company.  Even the small kiss they share at the end is not passionate - I don't mean as in formal, I mean their bond is not sexual or physical.  It's as though they are just providing each other with a little encouragement and compassion during the short time they share together.

There's a quote from the film I want to include because I think it's true.  It is when Charlotte and Bob are wiling away the empty hours talking about 'life', and Charlotte confesses her fears about the future.  Bob gives honest advice, and when she asks 'Does it get easier?' he replies with a crystal clear 'No.'  He then tells Charlotte that 'The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.'  What great advice!  The lesson can we learn here is to always listen to Bill Murray.

And last but not least the clothes.  I really like the outfits chosen for Johansson in this film, I think you could call them Graduate Chic.  Very understated, but surprisingly stylish - including the hair.  In fact, I'm due a haircut so I may continue my financial expenditure as a result of this film and go for Charlotte's style!

Doesn't she look cool?

This is quite a slow film and it requires all of your attention - I think it's one that is best watched alone.  This way you get to absorb every detail and the film deserves that because it is quietly brilliant.

On a final note, everyone who has seen this film wants to know one thing: what does Bob whisper to Charlotte at the end?!  Unfortunately the answers can be found on Youtube, although I have chosen to refrain from finding out telling you.  I think the beauty of this final scene is that you cannot hear what is said.  The emotion shown in Charlotte's face speaks volumes and that is the best note to finish the film on.