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I can't tell you how many people have told me that they just don't get Lost in Translation. They want to know what it's about. They complain "nothing happens." They've been trained by movies that tell them where to look and what to feel, in stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. Lost in Translation offers an experience in the exercise of empathy.
Lost In Translation is the second film directed by Sofia Coppola after The Virgin Suicides. It stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, with Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris in notable supporting roles.
Bob Harris (Murray) is a Hollywood actor past his prime, who despite his fame and success feels existentially empty. He goes to Tokyo to play in a commercial for the Suntory whiskey brand. Plagued by insomnia, he meets Charlotte (Johansson), the young and bored wife of a fashion photographer (Ribisi). On the outskirts of the movie is Kelly (Faris), a movie star who is promoting her newest flick.
With too much time on their hands and no idea what to do in Japan, Bob and Charlotte drift together and become emotionally close.
Contains examples of:
- Academy Award: Won for Best Original Screenplay. Somehow, Murray lost Best Actor to Sean Penn in Mystic River.
- Actor Allusion: The gag about not getting the Sean Connery Bond films. In Real Life, the popularity of the Bond films led to Connery doing a famous series of ads for Suntory. Given that Sofia Coppola's dad was also part of said series of ads, this was most likely intentional.
- Arcade Sounds: Subverted; the arcade sounds in the film were not the original noises, but they're no Pac-Man Fever noises either.
- Asian Gal with White Guy: Averted, interestingly. This film manages to depict a middle-aged heterosexual Westerner in Japan without throwing in any romantic or sexual involvement with a local woman, a rare feat indeed. He even turns down the advances of a call-girl who had been sent to his room to help him unwind.
- Bilingual Bonus: Amusing scenes in which Bob and Charlotte interact with the locals are even funnier if you understand Japanese.
- Not to mention the direction given to Bob.
The Director: (in Japanese, to his interpreter) The translation is very important, okay? The translation.
Interpreter: (in Japanese) Yes, of course. I understand.
The Director: (In Japanese, to Bob) Mr. Bob. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then there is a bottle of Suntory whisky on top of the table. You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, "Here's looking at you, kid,"—Suntory time!
The Interpreter: (In English, to Bob) He wants you to turn, look into camera, okay?
- The Cameo: Japanese late-night TV host Takashi Fujii, a.k.a. Matthew Minami, as himself.
- Celebrity Paradox: While channel-surfing, Bob chances upon a Saturday Night Live re-run that features a younger Bill Murray.
- The Chanteuse
- Corpsing: the waiting room scene.
- Deadpan Snarker: Bob Harris. Well, he is played by Bill Murray.
- Charlotte also gets in her share of barbs.
- Defictionalization: Suntory started using the Catch Phrase from the fictional Suntory ads in actual Suntory ads run in the United States (which also led Suntory to attempt an expansion of their distribution in America).
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Charlotte, and to a certain extent Bob as well.
- Dumb Blonde: Kelly.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Anna Faris's portrayal of Kelly is based on director Coppola's rather dim view of actress Cameron Diaz.
- Engrish: Used and lampshaded extensively.
"Lip my stockings!"
- Fan Service: The opening close-up Panty Shot of a sleeping Charlotte.
- Fish Out of Water: Both Bob and Charlotte are completely unfamiliar with Japanese culture, and find life in Tokyo endlessly baffling.
- Foreign Queasine: Bob and Charlotte go to a shabu-shabu restaurant and later mention that it was a terrible experience (although discussion of the lunch is an allusion to the awkward social situation around it).
- Genki Girl: Kelly.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-universe. It is implied that Bob Harris is a much more popular actor in Japan than he is in America since the last twenty years or so.
- Hollywood Tone Deaf: Kelly.
- Japandering: The basis for Bob being in Japan.
- Japanese Language: Plenty of it, obviously, none of it subtitled. Unless the audience understands Japanese, they are as clueless as the characters about what the locals try to tell them, which fits with both the title and the theme of the film.
- The Jesus and Mary Chain: "Just like honey...."
- Karaoke Box: Bob and Charlotte go to one with their Japanese friends after a party.
- Life of the Party: Subverted. As Roger Ebert puts it in his review of the film: "Bob Harris, who could be funny, who could be the life of the party, who could do impressions in the karaoke bar and play games with the director of the TV commercial, but doesn't--because being funny is what he does for a living, and right now he is too tired and sad to do it for free."
- Lonely Together
- Lost in Translation: Being the inspiration for the film's title, this shows up a lot.
- The acting instructions Bob gets from the commercial director lose most of their meaning when translated by the interpreter. This is Lampshaded by Bob, who asks: "Is that all he said? It sounded like he said quite a bit more!"
- Lounge Lizard: Bob has a one night stand with a female one.
- May-December Romance: Transcended. The emotional bond Bob and Charlotte form can't quite be pigeonholed as romantic, though some mutual attraction is involved.
- Midlife Crisis Car: Lampshaded. Charlotte says to Bob, "Sounds like a midlife crisis. Did you buy a Porsche yet?"
- Next Thing They Knew: With Bob and the lounge singer.
- Panty Shot: Charlotte as seen in the very first shot of the film lying on the bed before the title of the movie fades in.
- Product Placement: "For a relaxing time, make it Suntory time."
- Riddle for the Ages: What did Bob whisper in Charlotte's ear at the end?
- Someone used audio enhancement to find out what Bill Murray actually said, and posted it on YouTube. But this is a case of Completely Missing the Point, as the audience wasn't supposed to know what Bob said to Charlotte, so Coppola didn't write any dialogue for that moment and instead just told Murray to ad-lib something so they could get the shot of Bob whispering to Charlotte.
- Reportedly, someone on a cruise ship asked Murray what he said. As Murray started to reply, the ship's horn happened to blow, so he immediately went with it, acting like he was revealing the secret while no one could hear him.
- Shout-Out: Kelly is in Japan on a promotional tour for a movie that is called Midnight Velocity, sounds like The Matrix, and even stars Keanu Reeves.
- Shrines and Temples: Charlotte visits a Zen temple.
- Talk Show: Bob is invited to appear on one.
- Throw It In: A few of the lines between Bob and Charlotte, as well as the last scene, were ad-libbed.
- The Chanteuse in the hotel bar was not an actress, but the actual singer performing in the hotel bar. Coppola heard her perform "Scarborough Fair" and wrote her into the movie.
- The Voice: Bob's wife.
- Weddings in Japan: Charlotte chances upon a traditional wedding while visiting Kyoto.