(2004) - Focus Films (Universal)
by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B-
Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/A
Specs and Features
102 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), keep case
packaging (with locking clips), "Lost"
on Location documentary, A
Conversation with Billy Murray and Sofia Coppola
featurette, original and unedited Matthew's
Best Hit TV footage, 5 deleted and extended scenes,
Kevin Shields' City Girl
music video, theatrical trailer, forced preview trailers,
animated film-themed menus with music, scene access (24
chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1) and French
(DD 5.1), subtitles: English (captions), French and Spanish
never come here again, because it will never be as much fun."
Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a middle-aged Hollywood actor whose
career is past its peak. Bob's sold-out, having been paid $2 million
to endorse a Japanese whiskey, and he's in Tokyo for a week for
commercial and photo shoots. He's also using the trip as a reprieve
from his marriage, which seems to have lost its luster. Charlotte
(Scarlett Johansson), on the other hand, is a young, restless woman
who has followed her fairly-new photographer husband to Japan on
business. He's a workaholic, so she's usually left behind at the
hotel with little to do. Charlotte has no idea what she wants out of
life. Making matters worse, she's recently had that experience where
she woke up one day and realized that she has no idea who her
husband is, and what she was thinking when she married him.
Feeling detached from their lives, and finding themselves alone in
a strange and utterly foreign land, Bob and Charlotte have a chance
meeting in the hotel bar, and quickly see in one another kindred
spirits. Striking up an unlikely friendship, they set out to explore
the city, and discover not only a wondrous world all around them,
but also renewed faith in life's possibilities.
To describe the film in any more detail would be to rob you of the
pleasure of experiencing it yourself. Lost
in Translation is a rich, languid and almost dream-like,
that taps perfectly into the loneliness and need for belonging that
most people experience in their lives at one time or another. It's a
sort-of romance, sort-of comedy, and sort-of fish out of water
story... but the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
Second-time filmmaker Sophia Coppola's writing is well observed and
her direction manages to strike just the right style, tone and
pacing. Every bit as important, if not more so, Bill Murray evokes
the perfect balance of charm and sadness in his character. You feel
for this guy - you feel Bob's fears, his pain, his quiet despair.
And you believe the connection he establishes with Charlotte, in
part of because of great chemistry Murray and Johansson have
onscreen. This is absolutely the best performance of Murray's
I should note that the film has been criticized by some for the
fact that its laughs seem to come at the expense of Japanese
cultural differences, but this criticism is entirely misplaced in my
opinion. The simple reality is cultural differences are often
amusing. But being able to see the humor in such situations is not
the same as demeaning them. If you watch this film, I think it's
clear that both the filmmakers and the characters have a healthy
respect for Japanese people and culture. There is abundant beauty
and compassion here if you choose to see it.
Universal's DVD release includes the film in very good anamorphic
widescreen video quality. The film's color palate is very unusual -
almost otherworldly. Sometimes the colors are subdued, and at other
times, the screen is filled with vibrant lights and flashing neon.
Contrast is generally very good, and while you'll see some light
grain (in keeping with the theatrical presentation), the clarity and
detail is at all times excellent. The film's soundtrack is also
satisfying, particularly for its subtlety and atmospheric character.
This mix isn't going to immerse your in surround gimmicks, but the
soundtrack perfectly supports the almost illusory visual style of
the film. Both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 sound options are
available, and the DTS was definitely my preference for its greater
clarity and naturalism.
At first glance, the extras on this DVD leave something to be
desired. But after you sit with them for a while, you'll appreciate
them more for their quality than quantity. Coppola opted not to
record a commentary, and I think she made the right decision. This
really isn't a film that needs commentary. It's more experiential -
you're better off just immersing yourself in it than listening to
what others have say. Besides, much of what you'd want to hear and
see is covered in the interesting (and often very amusing) behind
the scenes documentary, "Lost"
on Location. It's about a half hour long, and gives you a
very unassuming glimpse at the filmmakers and the production. You
can tell that whoever was holding the camera knows Coppola pretty
well (I believe Spike Jonze), and so there's a trust and intimacy to
the piece that is very refreshing. It's great to watch Murray at
work, both on and off the set, and it's obvious that he and Coppola
really respect and admire one another. Particularly amusing is a
scene in which Murray reveals to the crew a book he bought years ago
as a joke - Making Out in Japanese
- which offers Japanese pick-up lines. If you're a fan of Murray,
you'll dig the guy even more after watching this piece. The only
thing that's odd about the doc is that Scarlett Johansson barely
appears in it, and is never interviewed. You wonder if A) she's got
a bit of an attitude, B) didn't want to be bothered with it, or C)
wanted too much money to participate.
Murray and Coppola's respect for one another is even more apparent
in A Conversation with Billy Murray and
Sofia Coppola, which is basically a short piece of video
with the two of them talking during a break in the film's press
tour. Also included on this disc is the original, unedited footage
of Murray's character appearing on Matthew's
Best Hit TV, and a number of non-anamorphic deleted and
extended scenes (including Bob interacting with the water aerobics
class, more of Bob sitting in the hospital waiting room and LOTS
more of "actress" Kelly's inane banter at the press
conference for her film). You also get the film's theatrical
trailer, set to Elvis Costello's (What's
So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.
There's only one thing I hate about this DVD, and I REALLY hated
it. When you start the disc, you're forced to sit through preview
trailers for other Focus films. You can't skip them, you can't jump
to the menu... best case, all you can do is scan through them.
Universal really needs to stop with this crap. I about burst a blood
vessel over it, dammit. L-A-M-E.
Ultimately, while the DVD could have included more in the way of
extras, I'm not terribly disappointed that it didn't. What you get
is pretty good when you sink your teeth into it. The bottom line is
that Lost in Translation is an
absolute gem of a film. Charming, amusing and moving, this is the
kind of unexpected film experience that we live for here at The
Bits. It's easily worth adding to your collection.
Shameless forced trailers aside, of course.