April 29, 2014

Film Club review: Lost In Translation (2003)

I take back what I said last week about Lost In Translation. I thought that I’d seen it enough to leave the bones clean of any additional nutritional value, but it seems that I was wrong.

The first time I saw this film, I consider to be a kind of throwaway; a crash test. I wasn’t prepared for such a lack of plot. Not that there’s an absence of plot – it is there, but it’s in the background. Of course, this isn’t the first character-driven film in the history of the universe, but what is remarkable is that I still like it.

I’m very much a plot-driven kind of guy. So the first time I saw this film, I was a little disappointed. I think we watched it again a few years back. I don’t think that my response then was particularly ecstatic either – on the one hand I knew a bit better what to expect, but I still didn’t really engage with the characters. But this third watching – I think I’ve finally really got it at last.

It’s a film about being stranded in a strange culture that you don’t understand and don’t really like, and finding support in a kindred spirit. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this first hand – maybe that’s what the second watching was for. But now I’m equipped to absorb the atmosphere and the sense of isolation and frustration, to appreciate the excellent chemistry between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, and to understand how, by liking each other, they learned to like themselves.

The question now is: is there anything else to get out of it if I watch it a fourth time?


13 thoughts on “Film Club review: Lost In Translation (2003)

  1. I think you’ve pretty much nailed it.

    I’m another plot-driven movie watcher, so when it first came out I skipped it, thinking ” that’ll be pretentious art house character self-indulgence”. Not being a fan of Bill Murray was another strike against it.

    Ten-and-a-bit years later and I slipped into this movie like a warm bath.
    I have first hand experience of being left to fend for myself in an alien culture– when D and I married we moved to Quebec and for all the high school classes and university summer immersion programs, my French didn’t extend much beyond Ça va bien?
    D would go off to work and I would get lost trying to find the drycleaner’s and fail in asking for directions. We’d go a party and I’d smile and nod for four hours. Etc.

    Now I have both the distance from that experience and the mid-life realization that what I thought my life would be and what is is are not going to meet at some magic self actualization crossroads.

    What raises this movie above amusing slice-of life for me is the nuanced skill of both actors, and the fine script. The understatement of feelings is what makes it poignant.
    And it is funny.
    The score is pretty kick-ass too.

  2. I enjoyed the music but I think Pete found it irritating in places.

    I’ve done my share of bored-in-a-hotel time (Goldfinch, anyone? krissa?) and jetlagged alienation, even in familiar cultures like the US where things shouldn’t have seemed as strange as they did. But I’d be more likely to grab a takeaway pizza and stay in my room with a book, which is why I have never had the transcendent experience of meeting a like mind in a faraway place.

    Best room pizza: The Hague.

  3. I watched this movie in the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.

    This was after landing in Tokyo, at 95% humidity, 36º with a stressed wife who (at that point) was a bit overwhelmed at how much Tokyo there was in Toyko.

    Being in Japan definitely made the movie more tangible. How difficult it was to do certain things and how easy it is to feel out of your depth in Tokyo made it almost life like at times.

    Pete suggest you try your 4th viewing in Tokyo.

  4. I can do.

    How do you feel about me setting your child to work in my garden? Can he debramble?

  5. He’s adept at maintaining his composure in the presence of bees.

  6. wait, asta’s not a fan of Bill Murray? What?

    One of my friends innocently said on Facebook a while ago that they’d finally got round to watching “Groundhog Day” and they thought it was the worst film they had ever seen. I don’t think she was quite prepared for the incredulity that followed.

  7. That long, lingering, opening shot of Johansson in her knickers. Would a male director have got away with that, do you think?

  8. swisslet
    I came around to appreciating his talents after watching him in Moonrise Kingdom. Everything prior to that grated on me like Caddyshack thorns, where each performance was a variation of ” Hey look at me, watch me be this hilarious character. I am SNL funnyman BILL Murray, hoo boy!”

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