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.And even thosestruggles are muted; there is barely a raised voice in the film.The movie s two American protagonists have their own reasons for beingin Tokyo.Bob Harris, a Hollywood star on the downside of his career, ismaking commercials for a brand of Japanese whiskey.Charlotte, a youngmarried philosophy graduate, has tagged along with her hotshot photographerhusband, who s taking pictures of a rock band.But they re also both adrift.Bob is losing his sense of dignity; even though he s being paid $2 million forthe endorsement, he knows there s something pathetic about the job.(Thescenes of him filming the commercials while getting koan-like instruction 174 POST-POP CINEMAfrom a Japanese director are among the funniest in the movie.) Charlotte isfresh out of school with no particular plans, married to a successful and drivenman whom she s beginning to suspect she doesn t know very well.Both Charlotte and Bob suffer from jet lag and insomnia.It s no surprisethat they meet in the hotel bar.What is surprising is what happens next.Coppola isn t interested in anything as obvious as a May-September romance.There is erotic tension between Charlotte and Bob throughout the movie, butit s kept at a simmer.What they really want from each other is a less physicalkind of intimacy.They want to be understood.(Hence the title.)The delicate balance of a new friendship might seem like a slight thingto hang a movie on.A less talented and self-assured filmmaker would havebeen tempted to liven it up with subplots, action, or intrigue.But Coppolatrusts her story to unwind at its own gentle pace, only nudging it here andthere with occasional bursts of humor, mostly courtesy of Murray.Someof these are misguided, and indulge in lazy Asian stereotyping: there is ashot of Murray in an elevator towering over short Japanese passengers, anda completely unnecessary bit of silliness with a prostitute dispatched to hisroom by the company paying for the commercial.(She can t pronounce herRs, and keeps telling him to  Lip my stockings! ) What is strangest aboutthese throwback racial routines is that Coppola has a good feel for the popcommercial currents of modern Tokyo; she films the city like someone whoknows it.It is, through American eyes, an alien enough place on its own thatit hardly needs funny-Japanese jokes to make the point.On the other hand,a scene of Bob losing control of a treadmill in the hotel gymnasium is aneffective, affectionate piece of slapstick, a nod to Murray s classic clown skills.Lost in Translation has something of the lightness Coppola displayed in TheVirgin Suicides; it glides and buzzes even when (as is often the case) nothingmuch is happening.But it is grounded in the solid ache of daily life.Coppolaobserves her characters in the in-between places that movies rarely pay muchattention to: riding elevators, taking baths, lying around half-dressed andindecisive.She also made perfect casting calls.She wrote the part of Bob Harris withMurray in mind, and he rewards her with a tender and thoughtful perfor-mance.He is not cast against type, exactly; he retains his smirky charisma,and we can see that the same qualities that made Murray a star are present inBob.But by this point, those are surface reflexes for Murray, and that s howhe plays them here; they re mostly a shield against a world that he s too tiredto keep fighting.He s worn out, but he pulls up short of self-pity.He s tooaware of his own bullshit, both personal and professional, to simply feel sorry DAVID FINCHER, SOFIA COPPOLA, AND RICHARD KELLY 175for himself.The character is a melancholy step from the midlife maundererhe played in Rushmore, less impulsive and more listless.Murray has continuedto refine this character in The Life Aquatic and Jim Jarmusch s Broken Flowers,almost to the point of catatonia.In the part of Bob Harris, he at least retainsenough playfulness to wear a tie-dyed T-shirt for a night out on the town.Likewise, Johansson makes Charlotte considerably more than a convenientpretty girl.She isn t the first movie character identified as an Ivy Leaguephilosophy major, but she s one of the few who actually seems like one.She sunabashedly smart and confident, but she also understands the limits of theoryin the face of experience.Johansson is a potentially interesting actress who,like Charlotte, doesn t feel fully formed.In her most notable performancesbefore this, she had been a foil, to Thora Birch in Ghost World and to Billy BobThornton in The Man Who Wasn t There.InLost in Translation, she has moreroom, and she fills it easily.There are lovely, wistful scenes of her exploringthe rainy city, alternately puzzled and amused by what she finds.Coppola manages to make busy, high-tech Tokyo seem both dreamy and alittle sad, in a way that movies have traditionally reserved for Paris and otherOld Europe capitals.But the setting is not really crucial.The film as a wholeis sympathetically global in outlook.It could just as easily be set in New Yorkor, for that matter, Omaha, anywhere that strangers from other places meet.Its not-so-subtle subtext is that cultural divides are nothing compared to thechasms between individuals, and that few things in life are more valuable thanbridging those chasms even temporarily, with a stranger, in another city.The film is Coppola s most personal to date, the only one not adapted fromanother source, and it is not hard to read autobiography into it.Charlotte shipster husband has obvious parallels with Spike Jonze, and the portrayal is un-sympathetic enough to have angered some of Jonze s friends.Michel Gondrysaid in an interview in The New York Times Magazine that he reprimandedCoppola for it. It was not nice, he said. I don t believe in being mean-spirited or mocking, and I told her that. 12 Another character, the ditsy andannoying American actress whom Charlotte and her husband encounter intheir hotel, seems clearly modeled on Cameron Diaz (who starred in Jonze sBeing John Malkovich).It was hardly surprising that the release of Lost inTranslation was followed shortly by news of Coppola and Jonze s divorce.But if the film leaves Charlotte s own marriage looking doomed, it is moreoptimistic about Bob s.Although his phone conversations with his wife arefull of obvious strains and silences, his one-night stand with a lounge singerleaves him feeling embarrassed and regretful.By the end of the movie, heseems actually to be looking forward to returning to his family.His doubts 176 POST-POP CINEMAand difficulties provide an odd kind of reassurance to Charlotte: that norelationship is ever easy, but also that they can be maintained.The low-key climax to the film is in a scene where Bob and Charlotte,exhausted from nights of insomnia, collapse into bed together [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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