Lost In Translation (2003)

(In theaters, January 2004) It happens once in a whileit once in a while: a low-budget film, helmed by someone somehow known to critics, featuring a veteran actor doing something different. Add to that some “naturalistic” cinematography, almost accidental directing, a paucity of dialogue and an unconventional bittersweet conclusion and you get an instant favourite amongst real critics. Meanwhile, general audiences and wannabe critics like myself are likely to remain unimpressed. There is, to be fair, a lot to like about Lost In Translation: Bill Murray’s hangdog melancholy is well-exploited, Scarlett Johansson is huggable and the various difficulties they having in coming to term with Japanese culture are a lot of fun to witness. (Heck, the culture shock alone is almost worth a viewing by itself, despite my own reservations about the rest of the film) But as the movie drags on to its conclusion, it’s hard to avoid thinking that two hours are a long time in which to tell something that doesn’t happen. Many scenes just drag on and on, not exactly helped by the overindulgent editing and Sofia Coppola’s approximate directing. The cinematography lacks crispness and the dialogues are in need of some further deliberation, but the languid pacing is by far the film’s worst characteristic. Halfway though the film, I had a mini-epiphany about realism versus polish in filmmaking, and the reasons why my vote was firmly on the unnatural side, but it didn’t seem as convincing once the credits rolled. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day, but one thing is for sure: There’s not much of a reason to watch this film again. It’s OK, and it’s likely to appeal far more to older viewers. Oh, and Academy voters. Go figure.

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