Chances are you came to Lost In Translation in an angst-ridden state, because Sofia Coppola’s second feature film is certainly not something you’d go out of your way to watch with friends. This tale of two lost souls finding love in a hopeless place…. finding friendship while far from home and the trappings of Western culture is one to seek out when loneliness and self-doubt have you in their perverse clutches.
A lot has been made of both Bill Murray’s and Scarlett Johansson’s performances (Bill would have won the Oscar if not for Sean Penn’s “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?”), but the city of Tokyo is the real star of the film, quietly brilliant in its own unique way. Murray plays Bob Harris, an actor in town to film a whiskey ad for a lucrative sum, but whose personal life is in shambles. Johansson plays Charlotte, an unemployed philosophy grad that has accompanied her photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi) on a work trip although the emotional distance between them makes it seem as if they’re worlds apart. Inevitably, the two are drawn together and form a deep bond that compensates for the discord in their own lives.
But what truly puts the icing on the cake of this wonderful story of alienation is its ridiculously good music. More so than any other movie soundtrack, one can revisit a song and be reminded of the exact moment of the film in which it played.
As Murray gazes out onto the Blade Runner-esque neon signs on Yasukuni Dori, Death In Vegas’ “Girls” plays in the background, lending an ethereal quality to one of the most heavily populated cities in the world.
When Scarlett Johansson makes her way through the urban sprawl using the largest urban railway network in the world, Brian Reitzell’s “On The Subway” incredibly captures the feeling of being an anonymous commuter among countless others — 90% of Tokyoites use the subway everyday, that’s somewhere in the region of 8.7 million people —leaving you wanting more after it’s over.
Sebastian Tellier’s “Fantino” similarly echoes the mournful quality of culture shock that both Murray and Johansson experience, as they find themselves far way from their loved ones, both literally and figuratively.
Perhaps Coppola’s greatest triumph, however, was not in getting Bill Murray to join the cast, but in forcing My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields out of hibernation to make several original songs for the movie. “City Girl” is the typical shoegaze fare one would expect from the Irishman and wouldn’t feel out of place on Loveless. It is in “Goodbye,” “Ikebana” and “Are You Awake” that we get a taste of his creative genius.
No words can describe the unforgettable karaoke scene in Shibuya where Murray sings a cover of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’ that succeeds in being even more melancholy than the original. Coppola is married to Thomas Mars of Phoenix, so naturally “Too Young” made it’s way into the mix, augmenting the sexual tension between Murray and Johansson.
The film ends on a triumphant note with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey.” The lazy stoned brilliance of the track will have you vehemently agreeing with the lyrics: “it’s good, so good, it’s so good.”