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  Lost In Translation  
  American Zoetrope / Elemental Films  
  Sophia Coppola  
  Sophia Coppola  
  Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi  
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Okay, Iíve gotten lucky with movies. First off, in the flurry of post-Academy Award nomination publicity, I was lucky enough to see this one in a theater not too far from my home. Second, I got to see it again not two weeks later because it had already been released on DVD. And, Lost In Translation is a good movie to boot.

The basic plot centers on two Americans who find themselves in Tokyo. Bob Harris (Murray) is an action movie star on the downward slope of his career who finds an extra income opportunity endorsing a Japanese whiskey brand. Charlotte (Johansson) is with her husband John (Ribisi), who is a photographer to the stars and who is doing a shoot with a band. Harris and Charlotte meet in the hotel they share in downtown Tokyo. They wind up hanging out with each other.

Outside of that, I really couldnít tell you the exact details of the plot, because itís kind of hazy. Sophia Coppola wrote and directed the movie, and it is really a disorienting experience. For the characters, it seems like the exotic thrill of being in a different culture feels more like an after-wash of adrenaline after a near-wreck in a car. The fact that Japanese culture appropriates so much American culture, but does so on its own terms, keeps the characters continually off-balance. So plot-wise, itís like, if you got up to go to the bathroom, and came back and asked, "What happened?" the other people would be all "Um, uh, well, uhÖstuff."

The characters wind up stumbling through a very loud, garish world that they keep getting told is a reflection of their own, but they donít recognize it. The country theyíre in has germinated as something placid and centered, but they're presented as running away from that as fast as it can. Furthermore, you get the feeling that the characters were more than a little bit out of place before they ever got to Tokyo, and this journey only brought things to a head. Murray gives a performance that, on the surface, looks like heís just barely involved in anything thatís going on around him. But in the end, he really delivers one of the most honest and powerful portrayals of loneliness that I have ever seen.

It takes a lot of courage to put out a movie like this. Youíve got to have a lot of faith in your audience and expect that they will be willing to go along for the ride with you. Somehow, it just isnít easy to disengage from this movie. You really feel like you want to sit with these characters, maybe letting the lights, the music, the conversation, the nonsensical television, the building-tall projection screen advertisements, the pachinko and video game parlors just wash all over you. And you hope that you come out all right on the other side.

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