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Lost in Translation (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lost in Translation
Lost in Translation poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySofia Coppola
Produced by
Written bySofia Coppola
Starring
Music bySee Soundtrack
CinematographyLance Acord
Edited bySarah Flack
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 29, 2003 (2003-08-29) (Telluride Film Festival)
  • September 12, 2003 (2003-09-12) (United States)
  • April 17, 2004 (2004-04-17) (Japan)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
Country
LanguageEnglish[1]
Budget$4 million[3]
Box office$118.7 million[3]

Lost in Translation is a 2003 comedy-drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It stars Bill Murray as middle-aged actor Bob Harris, who befriends college graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a Tokyo hotel. The movie explores themes of loneliness, insomnia, existential ennui, and culture shock against the backdrop of a modern Japanese city.

Lost in Translation was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director for Coppola; Coppola won for Best Original Screenplay. Murray and Johansson each won a BAFTA award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Leading Role respectively. The film grossed $119 million on a budget of $4 million.

Plot

Bob Harris is a fading American movie star who arrives in Tokyo to appear in lucrative advertisements for Suntory whiskey. He is staying at the upscale Park Hyatt Tokyo and is suffering from strains in his 25-year marriage and a midlife crisis. Charlotte, another American staying at the hotel, is a young college graduate who is feeling similarly disoriented. She is questioning her recent marriage to John, a celebrity photographer, and she is unsure about her future.

Bob and Charlotte grapple with additional feelings of jet lag and culture shock in Tokyo and frequently encounter each other in the hotel bar. After several chance encounters, Charlotte invites Bob into the city to meet some local friends. The two bond through a fun night in Tokyo, where they experience the city nightlife together. In the days that follow, Bob and Charlotte spend more time together and their friendship strengthens. One night, while each are unable to sleep, the two share an intimate conversation about Charlotte's personal uncertainties and Bob's married life.

On the penultimate night of his stay, Bob sleeps with a lounge singer from the hotel bar. Charlotte hears the woman in Bob's room the next morning, leading to tension between Bob and Charlotte during lunch together later that day. The pair encounter each other again in the evening, when Bob reveals that he will be leaving Tokyo the following day. Bob and Charlotte reconcile and express how they will miss each other, making a final visit to the hotel bar.

The following morning, when Bob is leaving the hotel, he and Charlotte share sincere but unsatisfactory goodbyes. As Bob takes a taxi ride to the airport, he sees Charlotte on a crowded street and decides to leave the car and walk to her. He then embraces Charlotte and whispers something in her ear. The two share a kiss, say goodbye, and Bob departs.

Cast

Analysis

Over the course of the film, several things are "lost in translation".[4] Bob (Murray), a Japanese director (Yutaka Tadokoro), and an interpreter (Takeshita) are on a set, filming a commercial for Suntory whisky (specifically, 17-year-old Hibiki). In several exchanges, the director gives lengthy, impassioned directives in Japanese. These are invariably followed by brief, incomplete translations from the interpreter.

Director (in Japanese, to the interpreter): "The translation is very important, O.K.? The translation."
Interpreter (in Japanese, to the director): "Yes, of course. I understand."
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!"
Interpreter (In English, to Bob): "He wants you to turn, look in camera. O.K.?"
Bob: "...Is that all he said?"[5]

In addition to the meaning and detail lost in the translation of the director's words, the two central characters in the film—Bob and Charlotte—are also lost in other ways. On a basic level, they are lost in the alien Japanese culture. But in addition, they are lost in their own lives and relationships, a feeling, amplified by their displaced location, that leads to their blossoming friendship and growing connection with one another.[6]

By her own admission, Coppola wanted to create a romantic movie about two characters that have a moment of connection. The story's timeline was intentionally shortened to emphasize this moment.[7] Additionally, Coppola has said that since "there's not much happening in the story besides [Bob and Charlotte's relationship]", the filmmakers tried to keep an ongoing tension.[8]

As an actor, and as a writer/director, the question is: is it going to be very noble here? [Is] this guy going to say, "I just can't call you. We can't share room service anymore?" Is it going to be like that sort of thing, or is it going to be a little more real where they actually get really close to it?

—Bill Murray[9]

Murray has described his biggest challenge in portraying Bob as managing the character's conflicted feelings. On one hand, Murray said, Bob knows that it could be dangerous to become too close to Charlotte, but on the other, he is lonely and knows that having an affair would be easy. Murray worked to portray a balance between being affectionate and being "respectable".[9]

The academic Marco Abel lists Lost in Translation as one of many films that belong to the category of "postromance" cinema, which he says offers a negative perspective of love, sex, romance, and dating. According to Abel, the characters in such films reject the idealized notion of lifelong monogamy.[10]

University of Vermont professor Todd McGowan interprets the film from a Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective, arguing that it encourages us to embrace "absence" in our lives and relationships.[11]:62 He describes Coppola's depiction of Tokyo "as a city bubbling over with excess", which offers an empty promise of gratification.[11]:54 Both Bob and Charlotte recognize that they cannot find meaning in Tokyo's bounties, so they bond over their shared sense of emptiness in them.[11]:54 The author and filmmaker Anita Schillhorn van Veen interprets the film as a criticism of modernity, in which Tokyo is a contemporary "floating world" of fleeting pleasures that are too alienating and amoral to facilitate meaningful relationships.[12] Tessa Dwyer of the University of Melbourne points to the polyglot nature of Lost in Translation, writing that it challenges the film industry's "more usual tendency to ignore or deny issues of language difference" by highlighting Bob and Charlotte's difficult contact with the Japanese language.[13]:297

Aesthetics

The author and lecturer Maria San Filippo contends that the film's setting, Tokyo, is an audiovisual metaphor for Bob and Charlotte's world views. She explains that the calm ambience of the city's hotel represents Bob's desire to be secure and undisturbed, while the energetic atmosphere of the city streets represents Charlotte's willingness to engage with the world.[14] Coppola and Lance Acord, the film's cinematographer, agreed that Lost in Translation needed to rely heavily on visual expression to support the characters' romance.

Robert Hahn, an essayist writing for The Southern Review, suggested that the filmmakers deliberately used chiaroscuro, the art of using strong contrasts between light and dark to support the story. He wrote that the film's dominant light tones symbolize feelings of humor and romance, and they are contrasted with dark tones that symbolize underlying feelings of despondency. He compared this to the technique of the painter John Singer Sargent.[15]

The film's opening shot, which features a close shot of Charlotte lying down in translucent pink underwear, has interested various commentators. In particular, it has been compared to the portraitures of the painter John Kacere and the image of Brigitte Bardot in the opening scene of the 1963 film Contempt. Dwyer wrote that Coppola's allusions to Contempt highlight the films' common themes of language difference, as both films emphasize the complexities involved with characters speaking multiple languages.[11]:298-299 Filippo wrote that while the image in Contempt is used to remark on sexual objectification, Coppola "doesn't seem to be making a statement at all beyond a sort of endorsement of beauty for beauty's sake".[16]

Coppola revealed in a 2013 interview that the shot is indeed based on the art of Kacere.[17] Geoff King, a professor of film at Brunel University (who published a book on the film, under the same name in a series titled "American indies", in 2010), contends that the shot is marked by an "obvious" appeal in its potential eroticism, and a "subtle" appeal in its artistic qualities. He used the shot as an example of the film's obvious attractions, which are characteristic of mainstream film, and its subtle ones, which are typified by "indie" film.[18]

Production

Writing

Coppola spent time in Tokyo prior to writing Lost in Translation and cited the colorful signage of the city as inspiration for the film.

After dropping out of college in her early twenties,[19] Sofia Coppola spent many years traveling to Tokyo, trying out a variety of jobs in fashion and photography.[20] Unsure of what to do for a career, she described this period as a "kind of crisis" in which she meandered around the city contemplating her future.[19][21] She came to feel endeared to Tokyo, noting an otherworldly quality brought on as a foreigner grappling with feelings of jet lag and culture shock.[22] After many years, she settled on a career in filmmaking and returned to the city, staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo to promote her first feature, The Virgin Suicides.[23]

After returning home from this press tour, Coppola began writing Lost in Translation.[24] She described the story as "very personal" from the beginning, having been influenced by her background in Tokyo and resolving to write a story set there.[21] Citing influences from film directors like Wong, Godard, and Fellini,[25] she began forming a story about two characters experiencing a kind of "romantic melancholy" in the Park Hyatt Tokyo.[26] Coppola was long attracted to the neon signs of the city and envisaged them as part of what would set a "dreamy" mood in the film.[20] She recruited her friend Brian Reitzell, who ultimately served as the film's music producer, to create dream-pop compilation mixes that she listened to while writing to help establish this tone.[27]

Coppola did not initially write the screenplay in traditional script form, citing the difficulty of mapping out a full plot. Instead, she opted to write "little paragraphs" based on disparate impressions and experiences of her life in Tokyo, which she then adapted to a script.[26] Among the first images included was her friend Fumihiro Hayashi's karaoke rendition of God Save the Queen, which Coppola had seen him perform earlier.[21] After writing the first 20 pages of the script with help from her brother, Roman Coppola, she returned to Tokyo for further inspiration.[24] There, she videotaped anything she could use as a further writing aid.[28]

Coppola envisioned Murray playing the role of Bob Harris from the beginning, wanting to show off "his more sensitive side" and feeling amused by the image of him dressed in a kimono.[23] She described her mental pictures of Murray as a significant source of inspiration for the story.[29] For the character of Charlotte, Coppola drew from her own feelings of early-20s disorientation, citing the strain in her relationship with her then-husband Spike Jonze as an influence for the relationship between Charlotte and John.[30] She also drew inspiration from J. D. Salinger's character Franny in Franny and Zooey, finding appeal in "the idea of a preppy girl having a breakdown".[19]

As she developed the relationship between Bob and Charlotte, Coppola was compelled by the juxtaposition of the characters having similar internal crises at different stages of their lives.[31] She cited the dynamic between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep as a source of inspiration for their relationship.[24] Coppola reported doing little re-writing of the script,[25] which took six months to complete and culminated in just 75 pages, much shorter than the average feature film script.[32][24] Despite worrying that the screenplay was too short and "indulgent" for including assortments of her personal experiences, she resolved to begin production of the film.[19]

Development

Coppola wrote Lost in Translation with Murray in mind and said she would not have made the film without him. Murray, who had a reputation as a recluse who was difficult to contact, had an 800 number for prospective clients interested in casting him.[33] Coppola relentlessly pursued him, sending telephone messages and letters for months.[31] Not receiving any response from Murray, Coppola recruited people in her professional network that might help her make contact. She recruited screenwriter Mitch Glazer, who was a longtime friend of Murray's, to show Murray an early version of the script. Glazer, who was impressed with the story, said he called him "every few weeks, saying, 'You need to read this.'", but Murray would not provide an answer.[33] After up to a year of cajoling, Murray finally agreed to meet with Coppola at a restaurant in New York City to discuss the film.[30] Murray then accepted the role, saying "she spent a lot of time getting me to be the guy. In the end, I felt I couldn't let her down."[34]

Despite Murray's agreement, Coppola had to take him at his word, as he did not sign a formal contract. She described this as "nerve-wracking", wondering if he would show up for filming in Tokyo.[24] She discussed the issue with director Wes Anderson, who had worked with Murray on Rushmore and encouraged her, "If he says he’s going to do it, he’ll show up."[24] For Murray's co-star, Coppola liked Johansson's performance in Manny & Lo, remembering her "as a cute little girl with that husky voice".[23] She invited Johansson to lunch at a New York City diner to discuss the role. Initially worried that the 17-year-old Johansson might be too young to play a character in her twenties, Coppola concluded that she appeared older and could convincingly play the part.[35] Johansson accepted the role without an audition.[36]

Feeling a sense of personal investment in the project, Coppola wanted to maintain final cut in the film and feared that a distribution deal with a North American studio would threaten her influence.[24] It was also unlikely that a studio would provide such backing, given the short length of the screenplay and Murray's lack of formal involvement.[37]:8 Instead, she and her agent, Bart Walker from ICM, opted to sell foreign distribution rights to an assortment of companies to fund production costs of US$4 million.[24] She struck a deal first with Japan's Tohokushinsha, then France's Pathé, Italy's Mikado, and finally to Focus Features International for the remaining foreign market. By piecing together the funding from multiple distributors, Coppola reduced the influence of any single financier.[37]:8 Still not knowing if Murray would show up in Tokyo, Coppola spent US$1 million of the budget,[24] knowing that his absence would doom the production. When he finally arrived days before filming, she described it as "a huge relief".[38]

Filming

Principal photography began on September 29, 2002,[39] and lasted 27 days. With a tight schedule and a limited US$4 million budget, filming was done six days per week and was marked by a "run-and-gun" approach in which Coppola was keen to stay mobile with a small crew and minimal equipment.[28] She conducted few rehearsals and kept a flexible schedule, sometimes scrapping filming plans to shoot something she noticed on location if she thought it better served the story.[40] Since the screenplay was sparse, missing details were often addressed during shooting, and Coppola allowed a significant amount of improvisation in dialogue, especially from Murray. One example includes the scene in which Bob Harris is being photographed for Suntory whiskey; Coppola whispered names in the photographer's ear—such as "Roger Moore"—and Murray improvised reactions, not knowing what he would hear.[29]

While key crew members were Americans that Coppola invited to Tokyo, most of the crew was hired locally.[40] This proved to be challenging for the production, as most of the Japanese crew could not communicate with Coppola in English, so both sides relied on translations from a bilingual assistant director and a gaffer.[28] The production encountered frequent delays while translations took place and suffered from occasional cultural misunderstandings; in one example, Coppola described a shoot in a restaurant that ran 10–15 minutes late, something she said was normal on an American shoot,[23] but it prompted the restaurant owner to feel disrespected and disconnect the crew's lights, forcing the film's Japanese location manager to resign.[24] Despite this, Coppola said she worked to adapt to a Japanese style of filmmaking, not wanting to impose an approach that her crew was not used to.[28]

Coppola worked closely to visualize the film with her director of photography, Lance Acord. She showed him and other key crew members a book of photographs she created that represented the visual style she wanted to convey in the film.[25] To evoke a sense of isolation in Bob Harris, Coppola and Acord used stationary shots in the hotel and avoided conspicuous camera movements.[41]:22 They also had numerous discussions about shooting on video, but they ultimately decided that film better suited the romantic undertones of the story. Coppola remarked that "film gives a little bit of a distance, which feels more like a memory to me. Video is more present tense".[28] Acord believed that new film stocks would reduce the need for excessive lighting, ultimately using Kodak Vision 500T 5263 35 mm stock for night exteriors and Kodak Vision 320T 5277 stock in daylight. Most of the film was shot on an Aaton 35-III while a smaller Moviecam Compact was used in confined locations.[41]:21

With high-speed film stocks, Acord chose to utilize available light as often as possible, only supplementing with artificial lights when necessary. He reported "never really" rigging lights for night exteriors, relying on the natural light on Tokyo's city streets.[41]:21 For interior sequences in the Park Hyatt Tokyo, he relied mostly on the hotel's practical lighting sources, shooting at a wide open f-stop and heavily cutting the light to eliminate reflections in the hotel window.[41]:23 Acord said he heard objections about lighting from some of the Japanese electricians, who were unaccustomed to relying so much on available light and were concerned that the exposure would not be sufficient.[41]:19 Acord, assured that the film stocks would hold up against lower lighting, ultimately shot much of the film two stops underexposed, rating the stock at ISO 1200.[42]

Many of the shooting locations were actual places of business and public areas at the time of filming, including New York Bar in the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. On public streets and subways, the production did not secure filming permits,[43] relying on city bystanders as extras; since Coppola was worried about getting stopped by police, she kept a minimal crew.[28] In the hotel, the production was not allowed to shoot in public areas until 1 or 2 a.m. to avoid disturbing guests.[41]:24 The final scene of the film was shot near the hotel, where Bob and Charlotte make their goodbyes. In this scene, Coppola reported being unhappy with the dialogue she had scripted, so Murray improvised the whisper in Johansson's ear.[25] Too quiet to be understandable, Coppola considered dubbing audio in the scene, but she ultimately decided it was better that it "stays between the two of them".[25] After production concluded, Coppola supervised 10 weeks of editing by Sarah Flack in New York City.[44]

Soundtrack

The film's soundtrack was released by Emperor Norton Records on September 9, 2003.[45] It contains 15 tracks, largely from the shoegaze and dream pop genres of indie and alternative rock. The soundtrack was supervised by Brian Reitzell and contains songs from artists and groups including Death in Vegas, Phoenix, Squarepusher, Sébastien Tellier, Happy End, and The Jesus and Mary Chain with "Just Like Honey". It also contains the song "Sometimes" by My Bloody Valentine, and four original tracks written for Lost in Translation by the former band's frontman, Kevin Shields.[46] Other tracks produced for the film include two co-written by Reitzell and Roger J. Manning Jr., and one by Air.[46] Songs featured in the film that are not in the soundtrack include karaoke performances of Elvis Costello's cover of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", sung by Bob to highlight his position in an older generation, The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket", sung by Charlotte to show her playful side, and Bob's rendition of Roxy Music's "More Than This", which was chosen extemporaneously by Coppola and Murray during shooting.[25]

During the screenwriting stage, Coppola spoke to Reitzell about the "moody" and "melancholic" qualities she wanted the music to convey in the film, as well as what Reitzell understood to be the "strange, floating, jet-lagged weirdness" that would define the central characters.[27] Several of the tracks in the mixes Reitzell gave to Coppola to assist her writing were ultimately included in the soundtrack, including "Just Like Honey", as well as "Tommib" by Squarepusher and "Girls" by Death in Vegas.[27] While Shields had not released any original music since the release of Loveless in 1991,[47] at Reitzell's suggestion, he and Coppola enlisted him to help write original music for the film;[48] Reitzell believed Shields "could capture that droning, swaying, beautiful kind of feeling that we wanted."[27] He then joined Shields in London for some two months[49] of overnight recording sessions, and they used the screenplay and dailies from production as inspiration while they worked on songs for the film.[27] Shields commented on the challenge he felt in songwriting for a movie, saying "I was barely aware of the language of music that’s not essentially just for your ears ... In the end, just the physical movement of the film, that was a delicacy. And I suppose that’s why I ended up doing stuff that was so delicate."[46]

King argues that music often plays the most significant role in setting mood and tone in the film, writing that it is substantial "in evoking the dreamy, narcotised, semi-detached impressions of jet-lag" as well as broader feelings of alienation and disconnection, "making what is probably the largest single contribution to the widespread understanding of the film as a 'mood piece'."[37]:115 He points to the use of "Girls" by Death in Vegas, featured in the early sequence in which Bob is driven from the airport to the hotel, arguing that it "plays a role equal to if not dominating that of the visuals ... creating a drifting, ethereal and somewhat dreamy quality that precisely captures the impressions of temporal and spatial disjunction".[37]:115–116 He also points to the use of "cool and distant" tracks like "Tommib", used in the extended sequence featuring Charlotte observing Tokyo while seated in her hotel room window, as playing a significant role in establishing feelings of isolation and disorientation in the character.[37]:116–119 In King's view, some sequences feature combinations of music and visuals that function as "audio-visual set pieces", which offer distinct points of appeal in the film for its target audience.[37]:117

The soundtrack received critical acclaim; on Metacritic, it has a score of 84 out of 100, based on nine reviews.[45] Frank Mojica of Consequence of Sound called the music "the third star of the picture", adding that "The atmospherics of shoegaze dream pop and the feelings of longing they evoke, coupled with the beauty of sadness, reflect the emotions and moods throughout the film".[50] Similarly, Drowned in Sound critic Gareth Dobson said the soundtrack "gently guides you through a myriad of woozy joys", and called it "a beautifully-fashioned record that works completely outside of its film setting but also acts as a haunting centrepiece to the movie itself."[51] The head of one record label cited Lost in Translation as an important factor that led to a resurgence of the shoegaze music genre,[52] and the soundtrack has been placed on several "best of" lists. These include Rolling Stone's "The 25 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time" at number 22,[53] Pitchfork's "The 50 Best Movie Soundtracks of All Time" at number 7,[54] and "The 20 Soundtracks That Defined The 2000s" by Empire.[55]

Release

Marketing

The production did not sell North American distribution rights for Lost in Translation until Coppola and Flack finished editing the film. In February 2003, it screened a finished version for top executives at Focus Features,[32] the domestic arm of the company to which it had already sold most of the foreign distribution. The prior contract proved to be significant for Focus, as it received privileged access to the film while competing buyers complained that they were restricted to the viewing of a three minute trailer in the Focus offices at the American Film Market.[56] The production initially offered North American distribution for US$5 million, but Coppola decided to sell it to Focus for US$4 million, citing her appreciation for the international deals the company had secured for the film.[32]

Once Focus was involved, it began promoting the film by employing a conventional "indie-style" marketing campaign.[37]:16 The strategy involved generating positive word of mouth for the film well before its September 2003 release. It arranged advance press screenings throughout the summer of 2003 and combined this with a magazine publicity campaign.[57] Posters and trailers emphasized the recognizable star presence of Murray, highlighting his performance in the film's comic sequences, which favored wider audience appeal.[37]:24–25 Immediately prior to the film's release, Focus placed Lost in Translation in film festivals and hosted "intimate media screenings" that included question-and-answer panels with Coppola and Murray.[32] Many of these marketing tacks were designed to promote the film at minimal cost, a departure from more costly strategies often employed in the Hollywood mainstream, such as major television advertising.[37]:16

Theatrical run

Lost in Translation had its premiere on August 29, 2003, at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, United States.[58] Two days later, it appeared at the Venice Film Festival in Italy, and on September 5, 2003, it was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.[58] It opened to the public in limited release on September 12, 2003, at 23 theaters in major cities including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the United States.[59] The film had already generated speculation about Oscar contention from advance screenings and was noted for opening several weeks earlier than expected for an indie vying for awards—a risk being that opening too early might cause the film to be forgotten by the time nominations were made for major prizes like the Academy Awards.[57][37]:16–17 Focus Features co-presidents James Schamus and David Linde commented that the company chose an early release date on the basis of factors including the film's festival exposure and early marketing campaign, as well as a lack of competition from similar films that would give Lost in Translation more time to command the marketplace.[57][37]:17

The film grossed $925,087 in its opening weekend and was expanded the next week from 23 theaters to 183[57] in the top 25 markets of the country.[59] There, it grossed more than $2.62 million over the weekend[60] and nearly paid off the total budget of the film. It entered wide release on October 3, its fourth weekend, reaching a high of 7 in the box office chart and hitting a theater count high of 882 a week later.[61] The film had grossed an estimated to-date total of $18,465,000 through the Columbus Day weekend,[61] and was noted by The Hollywood Reporter to have been performing well even "in smaller and medium sized markets where audiences don't always respond to this type of upscale material."[57] Following this success, Lost in Translation saw a gradual decline in theater presence progressing into the new year, and then it was expanded again after the film received nominations for the 76th Academy Awards. The film was widened from a late December low of 117 theaters to an estimated 632 at the end of January, ultimately ending its run in the United States and Canada on March 25 and earning $44,585,453.[61] Its international release earned $74,100,000 for a worldwide total of $118,685,453.[61]

Home media

Lost in Translation was released on DVD on February 3, 2004[62] and includes deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a conversation about the film featuring Murray and Coppola, and a music video for "City Girl", an original song composed for the film by Kevin Shields. Wanting to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Lost in Translation's presence at the Academy Awards, Focus Features made the unusual move to release the DVD and VHS immediately after its Oscar nominations were announced and while the film was still screening in theaters. The strategy was seen as risky, as the industry was generally concerned that theatrical revenues could be harmed by early home video release.[37]:22 Instead, Lost in Translation earned nearly US$5 million from its first five days of video rentals and sold one million retail copies during its first week of release.[63] Early returns showed it was the second-best selling DVD during this period[63] while the film screened in 600 theaters and box office revenues dropped just 19% from the previous week.[64] Focus credited the performance to positive word of mouth for the film and cited the marketing for both mediums as helpful for whichever platform consumers chose to view the film.[64] Lost in Translation was later released on the now-obsolete HD DVD format on May 29, 2007[65] and on Blu-ray on December 7, 2010.[66]

Reception

Critical response

Lost in Translation received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for Murray's performance and for Coppola's direction and screenplay.[37]:28-29 On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 230 reviews, with an average rating of 8.39/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Effectively balancing humor and subtle pathos, Sofia Coppola crafts a moving, melancholy story that serves as a showcase for both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson."[67] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has an average score of 89 out of 100, based on 44 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[68]

Critics widely praised Murray's performance as Bob Harris, commending his handling of a more serious role that was combined with the comic persona for which he was already broadly known. Writing for Slate, David Edelstein wrote that it was "the Bill Murray performance we've been waiting for", adding that "his two halves have never come together as they do here, in a way that connects that hilarious detachment with the deep and abiding sense of isolation that must have spawned it."[69] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly had similar praise, writing that "Murray reveals something more commanding in his repose than we have ever seen before. Trimmed to a newly muscular, rangy handsomeness and in complete rapport with his character's hard-earned acceptance of life's limitations, Murray turns in a great performance".[70] The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell called Lost in Translation "Mr. Murray's movie", remarking that the actor "supplies the kind of performance that seems so fully realized and effortless that it can easily be mistaken for not acting at all."[71]

Coppola received a similar level of acclaim for her screenplay and direction. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times commented that Lost in Translation was "tart and sweet, unmistakably funny and exceptionally well observed ... [marking] Coppola as a mature talent with a distinctive sensibility and the means to express it."[72] Much of the praise was directed specifically at her attention to qualities of subtlety and atmosphere; David Rooney of Variety praised the film as "a mood piece", adding that its "deft balance of humor and poignancy makes it both a pleasurable and melancholy experience."[73] Likewise, The Village Voice critic J. Hoberman called Lost in Translation "lyrical, touching, and gently discombobulated", and commented that "Coppola evokes the emotional intensity of a one-night stand far from home—but what she really gets is the magic of movies."[74]

Praise was also reserved for Johansson's performance as Charlotte; Rooney commented that she "[gave] a smartly restrained performance as an observant, questioning woman with a rich interior life"[73] and Turan added that Johansson "makes what could have been an overly familiar characterization come completely alive."[72] Lost in Translation appeared on many critics' top ten lists of 2003, with many critics such as Ty Burr and Ann Hornaday ranking it in the number one position.[75] Roger Ebert added it as one of four 2003 movies to his website's "Great Movies" list,[76] while Paste ranked it number seven on its list of "The 50 Best Movies of the 2000s"[77] and Entertainment Weekly ranked it number nine on its list of the decade's top ten.[78]

Criticism

While not a topic of most reviews, Lost in Translation received some criticism for its depiction of Japan, including charges of Orientalist racial stereotyping.[37]:132 E. Koohan Paik argued that the film's comedy "is rooted entirely in the 'otherness' of the Japanese people", and that the story fails to offer balanced characterizations of the Japanese, adding that "it is [...] the shirking of responsibility to depict them as full human beings, either negative or positive, which constitutes discrimination, or racism."[79] Similarly, Kiku Day charged in The Guardian that "There is no scene where the Japanese are afforded a shred of dignity. The viewer is sledgehammered into laughing at these small, yellow people and their funny ways".[80] Prior to the film's release in Japan, local distributors were reported to have concern about how it would be received there,[81] and the film was ultimately met with criticism in some Japanese reviews; among them, critic Yoshiro Tsuchiya of Yomiuri Shimbun wrote that Coppola's representation of Japan was "outrageously biased and banal".[82] Perceptions of stereotyping also led to a campaign against the film by an Asian American organization that urged members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to vote against it at the 76th Academy Awards.[83]

Professor Homay King of Bryn Mawr College argues that while the film ultimately does little to counter Orientalist stereotypes, it fails to establish the perspective from which such representations are made, writing that "the film [does not] sufficiently clarify that its real subject is not Tokyo itself, but Western perceptions of Tokyo [...] When Japan appears superficial, inappropriately erotic, or unintelligible, we are never completely sure whether this vision belongs to Coppola, to her characters, or simply to a Hollywood cinematic imaginary".[84] Moreover, Geoff King maintains that while depictions such as Charlotte's alienation from experiences like ikebana are evidence of the film's abstention from an Orientalist "mythology of Japanese tradition as source of solace", the film often situates Japan as a source of "difference" for the characters by relying on crude jokes and stereotypes of the Japanese as "crazy" or "extreme".[37]:130–132 Coppola reported being surprised by such criticisms, saying "I think if everything's based on truth you can make fun, have a little laugh, but also be respectful of a culture. I just love Tokyo and I'm not mean spirited".[22]

Accolades

Lost in Translation received awards and nominations in a variety of categories, particularly for Coppola's direction and screenwriting as well as the lead acting performances from Murray and Johansson. At the 76th Academy Awards, it won Best Original Screenplay (Coppola) and the film received three further nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Coppola), and Best Actor (Murray).[85] The film garnered three Golden Globe Awards from five nominations; Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Best Screenplay.[86] At the 57th British Academy Film Awards, Lost in Translation won three awards; Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Johansson), and Best Editing.[87]

Lost in Translation also received awards from various foreign award ceremonies, film festivals, and critics' organizations. These include Best American Film at the Bodil Awards,[88] Best Foreign Film at the César Awards,[89] and Best Foreign Film at the Film Critics Circle of Australia,[90] French Syndicate of Cinema Critics,[91] and Deutscher Filmpreis[92] as well as the Nastro d'Argento for Best Foreign Director.[91] The film also won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film,[93] Best Film – Comedy or Musical at the Satellite Awards,[94] and two prizes at the Venice International Film Festival.[91] From critics' organizations, Lost in Translation received awards in the Best Film category from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle,[95] the Toronto Film Critics Association,[96] and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle.[97]

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External links

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