Although we don't do movie reviews on the Shrine-- not by choice particularly, just because that's an entirely different medium to me, and I'd never shut up about it-- today I'm making an exception, because this one has alot to do with Japan (it was filmed entirely there with real locations), I still dream of visiting the country someday in my lifetime, and Bill Murray is awesome. Also, it's my damn website. So here we go!
I'm also breaking my regular review format entirely, in case anyone cares, because it just doesn't do the film justice to break it down like that.
Lost in Translation I saw plenty of times, over the years, sitting on store shelves mostly untouched. The price was usually outrageous, I'm guessing because not even the stores realized it was there. I knew what it was, but left it there because I was only half-willing to pay so much to see it, and only half-lazy in not wanting to bother at all. Basically, I just didn't feel like spending the money on it. Then, fast forward to this past Christmas. Sam Goody was going out of business, which really didn't effect me much because the only time I ever bought anything from there was when their business sucked to begin with, anyway, so they would mark things down to reasonable (or even cheap) prices. We went in to their going-out-of-business sale because we had heard everything was 50% off, and of course, the place was swamped with people bombarding cheap movies and music. Alot of the good stuff was picked over already, but then something caught my eye.
There was Lost in Translation, sitting there again, except this time with a price tag I just couldn't believe. I picked it up immediately, and paid for the sweetest movie deal I've ever had in my life. $2.50. Yeah, it was used, but whoever owned it before had obviously not used it much, because it was practically in mint condition, except for being opened and (probably) watched once. These things happen, because I'm presuming whoever owned this movie before didn't understand it at all, and probably turned it off twenty minutes in. Their loss, my gain.
But then, I got busy, and it sat on my DVD shelf for months. I kept telling myself I'd watch it, but something kept me from doing so. I honestly wanted to devote all of my attention to it, with no distractions. This may sound selfish or geeky, but I almost wanted to be... alone, preferably. This past weekend I had alot of free time, so I planned on watching it, and did so, by myself. If, by now, you're reading this and still don't remember this movie, or even know what it is, allow me to fill you in on this classic, which is probably the first (and only) time you'll ever hear me say that word to define a movie made within the last decade.
I heard about it for years through several sects; mostly online communities like the insert credit and large prime numbers dudes who keep the world safe from presidents being kidnapped by ninjas (on a side note, I've never been shy about saying I'm an old fan of Tim Rogers and his work). The general concensus between everyone that spoke of this movie, in a nutshell, was that it was very Japanese, but had... something, perhaps artistically deep, to it, as well. I noticed anyone who talks about this movie really has something different to say, actually. Everyone seems to grab the message from it and interpret it in their own way.
With that, I can say that Lost in Translation is probably the most well-written film I've ever seen. It's smart in a way that doesn't require the audience to take notes, or alienate everyone who doesn't understand, while maintaining a level of intelligence and maturity (and yet, simplicity with a child-like nature) the likes of which blew me away. Every other film I've ever seen tries to shove something down your throat and make you accept it, good or bad, regardless. Lost in Translation gives you the characters, the setting, and the story, and then allows you to make up your own mind. There are reasons, answers, and things happening throughout the entire movie, but there is no hand-holding, or even any explanation most of the time. It's up to you to make of it what you will and draw your own conclusions. By saying this, I'm not implying it's any sort of "what the fuck is going on?" kind of movie. It may sound cliche, but it's like looking at a painting, truly; I'm not just referring to a matter of opinion. This movie lets everyone look at it differently and figure it out themselves what it means.
The story is about a tired actor (Bill Murray) from the States who travels to Japan to do some paid advertising. His marriage is dragging along to a crawl and he's not a very happy person, as that's the way these things go. He meets a girl (Scarlet Johansson) staying in the same hotel as him who is staying there with her husband of two years; she's young and perhaps realizing how naive she may have been when she married the guy, because he's barely around and seems to question her reason for being with him anymore (she never says she loves him once). Through a chance encounter at the bar in the hotel, the two become friends and experience the vast cultural differences of Japan together. In the end, their mutual inherent lonliness develops a bond between them, and one could speculate that they begin to have feelings for each other or even fall in love. Regardless, it's the bond that's important, and without giving the ending away, I will say this bond is not broken.
There are alot of Japanese points of interest in the film, but I won't list all of them. A Pachinko Parlor is briefly ran through at one point, and an arcade with a number of different music games are shown (I can't completely confirm them all, but beatmania, Taiko: Drum Master, and GuitarFreaks to name a few). On a side note, I found this pretty funny, because when Guitar Hero first came out in the U.S., everyone talked about how it was the first guitar-based videogame, while GuitarFreaks was kicking ass in Japan. Even now you can't get people to shut up about how "revolutionary" Guitar Hero is, but whatever. What's really something is seeing the city lit up at night, especially from the sky. Japan, at night, is the most beautiful place in the world to me. It's just so surreal to see all the brightly-colored signs, the motion of the city going-- it's almost like it's alive. It may sound stupid, but I've never seen any place more beautiful than it before. I've even dreamed about it before, if that gives you an idea.
It's a very touching film, and it will almost make you cry while nearly making you laugh at the same time. In the end, I didn't really do either, except chuckle a bit here and there (watching Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanson running through the streets of Tokyo from what is, apparently, a very pissed off Yakuza fellow or some such, is quite entertaining-- and doing so in a way that doesn't make you fear for their lives in any way; you get the feeling they don't care, like children happily running for no reason). The fact that the movie takes place in Japan really is just an added touch that is used to display the cultural differences-- it honestly could have been any number of other countries and it would have worked. Still, the fact that it was Japan worked perfectly, as no other place in the world could be any more different than our own.
It's sad, it's charming, and I loved every minute of it. The fact that I neglected it this long only makes me wish I would have gotten to it sooner. Watch it.