Lost in Translation

Was für ein schöner Film. Und warum habe ich den erst jetzt gesehen?

New Yorker

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is the best movie about jet lag ever made. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an over-the-hill movie star who is in Tokyo to pick up some easy money filming commercials for Suntory whiskey. Entombed in the ultrasleek Park Hyatt, unable to sleep, he frequents the hotel’s low-lit bars and listens numbly to the lounge acts. He has no use for the Tokyo hubbub and ventures outside only at his peril. He looks like the undead.

The real world keeps intruding, though. Bob’s wife repeatedly faxes him from L.A. with needling queries about home redecoration. Another hotel guest, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who is accompanying her frenetically busy fashion-photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi), strikes up a tentative friendship with him based on their shared grogginess. She brings Bob into the clubs and pachinko parlors and karaoke bars, and gradually this deeply unhappy man begins to unwind. He and Charlotte aren’t lovers in any physical sense, but they enjoy the novelty of each other’s company. They know that this is one of those far-flung friendships that will last only for the length of their stay, and it’s sweeter (and more unsettling) for being so.

New York Times

The movie follows the twists and connections in Bob and Charlotte’s relationship — like some trans-Atlantic phone calls, their feelings reach each other on a five-second delay. The lag time only embellishes the comedy, and the heartbreak.

Being shut away from experience has made Charlotte even lonelier than Bob, and their relationship flowers because he is eager for experience, too. Ms. Coppola gives Mr. Murray a scene that actors dream of; he falls definitively for Charlotte as she struggles through a karaoke version of „Brass in Pocket,“ a wisp of a smile flitting across his face as he watches her perform in a frosting-pink wig. She is his dream of an uncomplicated future, and Ms. Coppola lovingly shoots Ms. Johansson’s wary, lazy eyes and lush lips — almost as a parody of Japanimation.

Certainly we anticipate Mr. Murray’s trashy sarcasm when he steps in front of a microphone, but we cringe slightly; if he whips Bryan Ferry’s doomed narcissism around his throat like a scarf, the kind of thing he did when he invented this routine in the late 1970’s on „Saturday Night Live,“ he’ll get his laugh and demolish the movie. Instead he renders the song with a goofy delicacy; his workingman’s suavity and generosity carry the day. And „Translation“ already has a joke of a hotel lounge singer, played by Catherine Lambert, who is used for a bigger laugh later.


Charlotte and Bob fall together and pull away; their tentative movements connect smoothly to form the rhythm of the movie, and it’s like the rocking of waves. One sleepless night, they lie awake on the same bed, chastely, fully clothed, talking. Charlotte’s husband has gone off for a few days to shoot a rock band in a nearby city. They talk of things that are simultaneously ordinary and gargantuan: Marriage, children, making a living. Bob lies on his back, his body a straight line; Charlotte lies alongside, curled up and facing him, her toes just touching his leg, as if that one small connection point meant everything.

It’s a visual hint of the picture’s quiet but devastating conclusion — a moment between characters that’s so private, we’re not even allowed inside it. But we can see their faces, which tell us all we need to know. In that instant, Coppola and her actors redefine the meaning of the word “lover” — a lover, we realize, is anyone who loves. The connection between Bob and Charlotte, as Coppola shows it to us at the end of “Lost in Translation,” is a moment of intimate magnificence. I have never seen anything quite like it, in any movie.

Und wieder der New Yorker:

When Bob is with Charlotte, he doesn’t act younger than his years. He is exactly who is he supposed to be: a jaded man momentarily brought out of himself. He has no illusions that this is anything but a spree. He has a scene in which he talks to Charlotte about the difficulties of his marriage and his sustaining love for his children that has tremendous resonance for her; he is letting her know that one doesn’t really get wiser as one gets older, just more temperate. Charlotte’s own marriage is a disappointment to her, and she spends part of her time in Tokyo frequenting Buddhist temples, or taking part in flower ceremonies, trying to fill a void. None of this really works for her, but Bob’s honesty, which is keyed to his weariness, does the trick. In the movies these days, it seems as if as soon as an actress hits her twenties, she becomes a snuggle-bunny. It’s a pleasure to see a performer who plays a young woman with smarts and substance.

Und wer den Film gesehen hat, sollte auch „What else was lost in translation“ in der New York Times lesen.