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Lost In Translation ; Japan/Bill Murray


8 Oct 2002
The Last Samurai
Lost In Translation
-- both in japan
-- critics already like "Lost In Translation"

august 31,2003
The small-budget romantic comedy ``Lost in Translation,'' directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill Murray, became the most talked about movie so far at the Venice Film Festival when it made its debut Sunday.

Critics and the public alike were won over by the film, which is about two people who stumble across each other in Japan and has slightly melancholic touches.

I saw it this weekend and I liked it. To give a bigger spin to the story, it's about a famous actor (Bill Murray) that goes to Tokyo to shoot a few commercials for Santori whisky (shameless movie plugs, but no worse than their westerner counterparts) and he is in his middle-crisis, while Scarlet Johansen portrays the young recent-married wife of a photographer, who is having a crisis about what is she, and what does she wants to do in life.
Tokyo, Japan is initially a place that alienates them completely, in the beginning of the movie, but their shared experiences are the core of the movie.

It's not a chick flick and its not a comedy though I would define it as existentialist comedy.
Moved to the Movie forum (imagine that...)

I liked Translation as well. Both performances by Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray were really well done imho. A subtly bittersweet film that's ultimately uplifting (I still can't figure out what Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear there at the very end though). Definitely worth checking out.
I think it might be the meaning of life. :D

"What kind of restaurant makes his costumers cook their meal?" :D:D:D

Some of the cultural clashes are really funny.

That whisper scene is a nice touch to end the movie, and I think it isn't supposed for the public to understand what Bill is whispering, which gives it a nice touch since everyone in the audiance will have some sort of an idea of what transpired in that scene.

Sometimes the best things are best left to the imagination.
I watched the movie two weeks ago.
The story is really nice and touching, but I didn't like how Japan was pictured!
Again all clichees were shown and nothing explained (okay, that was not at all the topic of the movie).
But it left a bitter aftertaste, because I love Japan! And I simply can't understand that they are bored while staying in the middle of Tokyo......
I think the makers of that movie don't know much about Japan.
For showing the clash of cultures and people who are feeling lost there it is not necessary to stick to the old prejudices, I think!
"And I simply can't understand that they are bored while staying in the middle of Tokyo......"
sound like typical americans? to me

"I think the makers of that movie don't know much about Japan."
or they went and didn't have a fun/time as a result of their personality or chance

i haven't seen it (too cheap), but i must say that i have not met a native japanese person who doesn't like this movie, and ask if i have seen it. same for that samurai movie :)p by default as it is tom cruise prettyboy self starring)
tsukinoko, i'm gonna have to disagree on you about the cliches. that movie did a wonderful job of showing japan for what it is. naturally you cannot fit an entire culture into a 90 minute movie, but granted the average moviegoer is intelligent enough to know that, there should be no need for explaination. you are probably referring to the shabu-shabu scene, am i correct? that is just a typical american attitude, and it's not like Bob (Bill Murray) was even being serious. the point is, is that you must see things for what they are while at the same time not taking everything so seriously. if you were offended or think that Lost in Translation was cliched, i'd personally feel that you'd have some kind of unecessary japan-defense mode where anything that shows japan in a negative or even neutral light is offensive to you. i apologize if this is not the case, but it kinda sounded like it from your post.
I think another point that needs stressing about this film is that the focus of the film isn't Japan; it's the relationship between two characters in an unfamiliar setting. Japan is simply the setting, and as such is really shown in about as unbiased a form as possible. I didn't perceive any judgment about Japan... Japan is simply there, and the characters can interact with it any way they see fit.

Obviously we're not talking about two people who are total anime freaks, or follow the Oricon pop charts from their computer or even may have gone to a Japanese restaurant in America. Bill Murray's character especially... he doesn't know anything about Japan going in, and his character becomes interested in aspects of the culture (like when he tells his wife that they should start eating more Japanese cuisine). The Scarlett Johansson character obviously knows more about Japan, but her inability to "enjoy" herself doesn't stem from any dislike of the culture... she's feeling isolated by her husband's constant absence. Hey, I truly love all aspects of Japanese culture that I've encountered, but I think I'd still be pretty depressed wandering around Tokyo all by myself... experiences are more fun if there's someone like you to share the experience.

So you definitely can't watch this movie from the perspective of:

"What's wrong with those two? If I was there, I'd totally be having the best time ever! Do they hate Japan or something?"

The movie is about people, not Japan. Japan simply provides IMHO a majestic backdrop for this story to take place... and if you're a fan of J-Pop culture like me, then have fun spotting all the pop culture figures... like seeing Bill Murray interact with comedian Takashi Fujii or hearing the strains of classic '70s J-Rock band Happy End in the karaoke club.
That speaks volumes about how much the filmmakers actually DID know about Japan...

Mmmhhh.... I think I see your point, all of you. Probably I was a bit harsh with my opinion.
And that it is not a movie about Japan I know and mentioned already.
But I didn't only mean the shabu shabu scene, I can understand that people who don't know it can't appreciate it! I was more thinking about the "r"-"l" irritations they make fun about, and stuff like that (but, hey, maybe that was the problem in the german version, didn't watch it in original)! Come to think of that, probably we're not talking about exactly the same movie! Any Germans here who watched the movie in German???

I might be strange, but I'm not an anime-fan so much and only recently started to get into j-rock/pop and was still wandering around Tokyo and other places in Japan on my own and enjoyed it very much.
Well, probably because I'm just so much interested in Japan that I have fun with every little detail of this (to me still foreign) country.

Mmhhh, but for saying something about the movie, I am to fixed on Japan as my "big love", I see that! I think I watched the movie too much from that piont of view!
tsukinoko: Please don't take my comments too harshly... like I said, I was just trying to make the point that not everyone is going to enjoy Japan at the same level and we can't expect that as fans of Japanese culture. Not having been to Japan myself, I couldn't truly say how I might interact with that setting by myself...

I think I know what scene you're referring to with the "r"/"l" issue, and that is in the movie originally. I assume you mean the woman who asks Bill Murray to "lip her stockings", and Bill gets confused... but I thought that scene was done in good enough taste. It is a reality that one of the first major hurdles in an American or European learning Japanese is that while there are two distinct characters for R and L in the Roman alphabet, in Japanese there really isn't... there's one character whose sound is halfway in between, and so to the uninformed ear that sound will be heard as the opposite of what's expected. Bob's ear is pretty uninitiated to Japanese pronunciations, so he could get confused... to me, it wasn't over the top and was more observational humor than anything else.

But I just heard today some people on the radio who seemed to think that the point of the movie was how boring Tokyo is as a city... which completely misses the point, but I guess the movie can give that impression to people. It's too bad really... but like any movie it's always open to interpretation.

Anyway, it's always good to get some intelligent discussion going about movies and these topics... and it's nice to meet some new people who saw and enjoyed this film.

tsukinoko said:
But it left a bitter aftertaste, because I love Japan! And I simply can't understand that they are bored while staying in the middle of Tokyo......

well this has been answered already, but i'll put it in my own words :)
the characters, esp. at the start, are totally foreign to everything and are not interested in discovering anything - bob is there to make some money and "take a break" from his wife, as he says. he's also having a bit of a mid-life crisis.
charlotte went along because her husband was going there for work, and doesn't know what do to alone. she's also having a little "i just finished a psyc. degree at uni and not only do i not know what i want to do, but i feel alienated from the world" crisis.

so both of them start off not interested in the japan they are presented with - neat clean 5-star taxis and limos, neat clean 5-star hotel rooms, a view of a city that looks like any other skyscraper-dominated metropolis, an airhead american actress "wowing" the press with her weak knowledge of japanese society.. *rolls eyes*
when they go out with Charlie they get to spend time with less stereotypical and more relatable people (that is, people they can relate to).

the teasing-joke about "L" vs. "R" i think is more of a "hey, i wish i actually KNEW why, but i don't so i'll make a joke about it".... it didn't offend me at all.

i actually heard that Sofia Coppola knows lots about Japan and had lived there for a while at some point. i think it shows - stereotypes are nonexistant, and only seem that way if it's because they are true. not that i know any that well anyway...
one love i have for the film is that it shows me modern japan! some people were saying that japan was just the backdrop, which is partially true as the characters are the centre. but if u look at "you're under arrest live action", japan really IS just a backdrop. the cop-scenarios could take place anywhere.
likewise, you could set "lost in translation" in any country that is foreign to the main characters, but Sofia really makes japan noticable - it is a character in itself, IMO.

anyway, i love the movie and have seen it twice (just today was my second turn!). can't wait for the dvd and commontary from Sofia.

I Feel Guilty, But.....

I hated the movie! I went out & bought the DVD the day it went on sale. All the hype & awards etc. really got my expectations high. I saw no on-screen chemistry between the main chacters. The diaolog put me to sleep and the shots of around Japan might as well have been in a commercial for something; nothing spectacular. I seem to be the only one I know disapointed with it.

ahh well - it's a shame you didn't get a good experience from it.

interestingly, we've had no such hype about it here - although for an 'art' film it has a pretty wide release. it is currently still in cinemas and has been for about 2 months (australia).
I loved watching "Lost In Translation" in theatres. The movie has a certain aura that gives me a warm feeling inside. Yeah, sounds cliche, but it does.

Hopefully "Lost In Translation" will win some well deserved Oscars tonight.
I saw it in Ginza and laughed my *** off, cause I was also a poor lost person in Tokyo. Its not hard to be bored in Japan if you know noone and dont know the language.
I saw the movie yesterday and loved it. Couldn`t find any of those "cliches" some people in this thread are referring to... :)
thomas said:
I saw the movie yesterday and loved it. Couldn`t find any of those "cliches" some people in this thread are referring to... :)

No wonder it won the Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). :)
i didn't know anyone my first time (well, i did, but schedulng confilcts prevented)
tokyo is such a vibrant city, with plenty of colors (imo)
a lot of my japanese friends that live here (and abroad) seem to like the movie (i haven't seen it), so i guess it can't be all that bad
I really loved this movie. I just downloaded from the internet because it hasn`t arrived to my country yet (Chile). One if the reasons why i wanted to watch it is because fisrt im studying for being a translator and the title of the movie caught my attention inmediately and second, because i love Japan and it`s culture. Since im from the other part of the world, im always curious about different cultures and that`s what i love about this movie.

I really liked Scarlett J. I have seen some other movies from here, when she was a little girl and it`s interesting to know that she is becoming a really good actress.

Im also trying to figure out what Bill says to Scarlett at the end of the movie....It`s a nice movie. Its shows a beautiful tokio full of live. Even though i`ve never been there...:p
Indeed it was a good movie...
I liked it even if lot of my friends disliked it.
However to me it shows how much Tokyo's busy and empty at the same time.
I Guess I'll Never Make A Movie Reviewer !!

I'm outvoted about 20 to 1. I guess I'll go back and watch it again.

:mad: 😲
I just rented this movie and saw it for the first time this week (I know, I'm behind the times). I didn't think it showed Japan in any derogatory light. Instead, I thought the film did a very good job of showing how these characters would be "lost" anywhere, as they were "lost" in their lives before they even came to Japan.

But here's what I'm dying to know: What did the director say to Bill Murray's character? Since I don't know Japanese, I missed a lot in that scene!! His assistant kept translating it as "more intensity," but I know there was a lot more to it than that. What did he say to him?? (Inquiring minds want to know!)
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I've just seen the movie (yes, I know, I am late :p) and like Thomas, didn't find any stereotypes, if it weren't for the weird TV presenter and his Japanese dance. Tokyo in the film is very much like it is and is felt in real.

I agree with Frank when he says there is nothing spectacular, but I didn't expect big frills either, so I wasn't disappointed. I particularily liked it because it's shot and Tokyo were I live, which gives it a feeling of being at home. The atmosphere is relaxing and the main characters played their role irreproachably.

I've added the DVD to the JREF Shop in case anyone else wants to see it. Please post your comments and ratings (and a copy-paste from this thread) there as well. The shop is an extension of the forum (same login), and posts there are also counted here. The same goes for the gallery.
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