versione originale italiana

Lost in translation

Two Americans in Tokyo
a review by Adriano Ercolani

translation by Luca Persiani

  Usa, 2003
directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi

After directing the haughty and conceited The Virgin Suicides (1999) , Sofia Coppola straightened her storytelling and chose a new consistency in moviemaking.
Lost in translation is a lyrical movie with a simple, almost too weary plot: a man and a woman, both married but actually lonely their own way, happen to stay in a foreign country - Japan - whose culture they can't understand or accept. When they meet - at first unintentionally - a relationship slowly starts to develope. It's something built on the unsaid, hard to explain and show, but impossible to ignore. A love story set in a Tokyo full of lights and noises, a feast for eyes and ears, a place whose loudness compels (or maybe helps) to blank emotions, feelings, love.
Such a plot pitch could hardly strike some interest. But Lost in translation is not an outstanding or visionary piece of work: its beauty dwells in few ideas pursued with strenght, agility and a great lyrical attitude.
The movie's main goal is to grip to the main characters, following their story without detours or unsettling wanderings. That's something Bill Murray's superb performance embodies perfectly, a stand-alone piece that - in the first thirty minutes of the movie - needs nothing else to create a peculiar mood made of a refined irony. Sofia Coppola makes room for a great funnyman that can make you laugh or move you just using a single sneaking or melancholic glance, or even a half-smile. Scarlett Johansson's heavenly beauty is the perfect match: here comes a colourful, peculiar, poetic couple.
The director is never intrusive, helming the movie with a very refined balance: Lost in translation is a complete work, his strong point being the characters' set-up, made of restless, witty and lively gags and intense moods.
Such an entertaining beginning, we must note, is followed by a not equally satisfying developement. But the ending - even if not as powerful as the set-up - is strong and moving, unexpectedly lifting a story that becomes again exhilarating and affecting.
All in all, Lost in translation is a quite good movie, showing Sofia Coppola's artistical growth after her first feature film. Above all, we must praise her for handling so well Bill Murray's skills, a sometimes underrated actor that here can fully show his talent, thus becoming - last but not least - a private hero to us.