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Lost in Translation
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1,019 of 1,142 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2003
Bill Murray is Bob Harris, a once popular American actor who now, in his middle-age, has found more acceptance and money from the people of Japan than from his own country. He arrives at a prestigious hotel in Tokyo and is given a royal treatment by his greeters and hosts. He is by himself in the land of the rising sun, his wife and kids having stayed behing in the US while he travels across the globe to do some liquor commercials. This Tokyo excursion will take about a week, and the monetary reward will be quite handsome. Contrast this with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who is at the same hotel tagging along with her photographer husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi), as he does a multiple-day photo shoot. John is at work most of the time, and so Charlotte is by herself at the hotel, her attempts to keep from being bored proving fruitless. Both Bob and Charlotte are married people, but they are also very lonely people, and that is what "Lost In Translation" is all about.
Bob and Charlotte catch glimpses of one another at different places in the hotel, and finally decide to converse in earnest at the hotel bar. The entire plot of the film is about these two people getting to know each other. The story revolves around them. In fact, the story *is* them. Bob, in his early-fifties, is old enough to be Charlotte's dad, but that doesn't matter here. It's not about age. It's about the place, and the points that each of these people are at in their lives. Bob loves his children very much, but we do not sense he feels the same for his wife. We hear her on the phone when she calls him, and the same weary sentiment seems to flow from her voice. They are becoming a couple in name only. Then there's Charlotte & John. Both are young, and both are self-possessed. John is into his photography to the point of neglecting Charlotte. But we get the idea that even if gave her more attention, Charlotte might not really warm up to him. She has issues of her own. If Bob is going through a mid-life crisis, then Charlotte seems to be going through a young-life crisis.
"Lost In Translation" is about being alone. Loneliness doesn't always mean that someone is physically separated from loved ones or from people in general. One can be alone in the middle of a crowded room. Such is the case with Bob & Charlotte. They're in Japan for a week. They don't really speak the language. Bob's wife is in the US, and Charlotte's husband is always at a photo shoot. The two lost souls find each other at the hotel, spend time with one another, and even sleep in the same bed together. But we know that while this is providing a small comfort for the time being, it is not a lasting solution to their problems. And we also understand that both Bob and Charlotte -- even if Bob's wife were in Tokyo with him, and John was by Charlotte's side all the time -- would still be lonely. Their life struggles lie deeper than what one person can provide, especially the persons they have chosen to settle down with.
This is probably Bill Murray's most understated performance, and it works brilliantly. He lets you in on Bob's emotions without betraying too much sentimentality. He conveys so much with just a smile, a frown, his body language, or simply the look in his eyes. He should get an Oscar nomination for this. Scarlett Johansson, who left me unimpressed in the movie "Ghost World" a few years ago, is excellent in her role here. She portrays Charlotte as a deep, troubled, yet intelligent young woman and, like her co-star, does it without overstating it. She spends much of her screen time walking around a hotel room in her pink panties, and does it so simply and matter-of-factly that it becomes both vulnerable and sexy at the same time. Johansson is definitely an actress to watch for in the coming years.
Sofia Coppola has succeeded in creating a sliver of time & place with "Lost In Translation". It creates two of the most realistic characters to ever grace the cinema. You forget this is a movie, and start to really care for these people as though they really exist. And you get the feeling that this is a single, solitary moment that will be over with and then fondly remembered by the characters for a long time to come. This sweeps over you before the film is even over, much like when you are in the middle of a special occurence or event in your own life, and you stop and think about the fact that at one point - very soon - it will cease to be the present, and will instead become only a nostalgic memory.
And there you have "Lost In Translation"
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206 of 231 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2004
Format: DVD
This movie is slow paced. However I didn't find it boring at all. I loved the scenery and the small glimpses into everyday Japanese life, all meshed together with this love story of two people brought together by loneliness and uncertainty, with a musical soundtrack that brings out the best in all of it.

After watching this film, the first thing that sprang to my mind was that I'm so glad I don't rely on Amazon reviewers to make a decision about whether I am going to see a film or not. That's almost as dumb as asking a fifteen year old to sit through it and not go crazy or pass out. This film is too mature, dealing with grown-up questions, situations and problems that the kiddies here have yet to grasp.

Bill Murray's character is going through a midlife crisis; Scarlet Johansen's is tormented that she cannot seem to discover her purpose in life. Both are trapped in a place where they know no one, and understand nothing. They gravitate to one another and fall into a kind of love that is very unique, but also not at all uncommon under the circumstances. They don't pursue it physically, because they live in a real world with real consequences and have to respect the promises they made to people they both still love.

No kid fresh out of tenth grade will ever be able to comprehend these emotions... no wonder most of these reviews are from people who were bored stiff. "No sex? No violence? This movie SUCKS", seems to be the way it works with these Amazon reviews.

Too bad. Maybe when they all grow up they'll get it. I recommend this movie to grown ups who like minimalist dramas and romantic comedies. If you're expecting a samurai to jump out with a sword, pass this movie up. This film is about human emotions.
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99 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2004
Format: DVD
I saw Translation for the first time and liked it, but didn't really know what they saw in the movie that was so beyond-belief spectacular. But alas, I believe that every movie deserves a second chance, so recently I sat down and experienced director Sophia Coppola's Lost In Translation again.
Lost in Translation tells the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray in a role tailor-made, if not even Heaven-sent for him), an American movie star that comes to Tokyo to film a whiskey commerical for which he will be paid 2 million bucks. Staying in the same Tokyo hotel is Charlotte (Scarlett Johanssen, radiant and mature at only 18), a newlywed tagging along with her rock photographer husband, John (a typically awkward Giovanni Ribisi). Along the way, Charlotte and Bob run into each other and begin a 'brief encounter' that profoundly affects them both.
When the movie hits you right, it's a pure pleasure from its unassuming start (a beautifully lit shot up Johanssen's underwear-clothed behind) to its ambiguous but meaningful ending. It begins as a comedy of culture clash, Harris sarcastic and confused at the Japanese when entering his hotel, and even more befuddled in a hilarious scene where he shoots the whiskey commercial. Coppola delivers Bob into her movie with the impression that it'll be all about him, but Charlotte enters the story, and we're never quite the same. Scarlett Johanssen plays Charlotte with just the right amount of emotion that her initially morose and soul-searching character doesn't seem silly. At one point, she tearfully admits over the phone, "I don't know who I married." Bob, on the other hand, seems to have it made, but Murray lets a current of loneliness run across that memorable face. He gets comical faxes from his wife about bookshelves and carpet samples, but he gives off the impression that he's come to the point where he doesn't even care anymore. Bob is certainly alone for a time in Tokyo, but Murray alludes that things at home aren't too hot either.
For the first third of the movie, director Coppola displays her first brave choice in filmmaking by keeping Bob and Charlotte apart. Upon my first viewing of Translation, I wasn't convinced of Coppola's choice to keep the movie so predominantly low-key, but I've realized that there's a reason for it. The movie sustains this amazing vibe that doesn't stunt its progress, but propels it with a driving fluidity. A few times, though, Bob and Charlotte do see each other without officially meeting. One time in particular occurs in a crowded elevator - the two glance at each other, faintly smile, and possibility is born. The first section of the film doesn't just serve to show its two characters completely apart - it makes you think of how many life-changing connections you've missed in the past by just being passive and solitary.
The two meet and begin voyages out into the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and the film takes on a perspective that differs from its earlier view. Before, we saw Bob Harris and Charlotte, respectively, at their most private and vulnerable. While out on the town, the film seems to sit back and just let them have fun. Thank God, for Bill Murray's rousing rendition of Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" is a blast. During this time, it seems that Bob and Charlotte have forgotten their insomnia and loneliness, but it's not gone forever. Even during their night on the town, we see moments where they sit silently, pensive and confused. The movie is a comedy in some sense, but it escalates into a pervading tragic feel. At one point, Charlotte says to Bob: "Let's never come back here again, because it will never be as much fun." They had fun, but only in the sense of putting off more loneliness.
It takes a while, but the motivations of each character become fully-realized in a marvelous scene where Bob and Charlottelay fully-clothed in bed together. Here, they handle the 'big' questions in life, and not "Where did you go to college?" or "What did you want to be when you were little?" but "What is my purpose?" and "Does marraige get easier?" I was amazed at the honesty of the character's responses. Bob relates to Charlotte the experience of having children and the ongoing struggles of marraige, but a tinge of fear and apprehension runs through his speech. Charlotte hasn't really figured things out for herself yet - she says she's tried just about everything but hasn't found that niche. Coppola's screenplay makes the statement that both are in the same exact emotional limbo. Charlotte is confused and worried, but Bob is regretful and washed-up. In a way, these two are some form of deeply odd soul-mates. That is the heart and soul of Coppola's amazing work.
Translation has great comedic flair with Murray's wonderful work, but it's also perhaps one of the saddest and most moving films I've seen in a long time. It's some form of a romance, too, but it's not about when they'll kiss or when they'll hit the sheets. It also has that Affair to Remember vibe too, where the journey of two souls that find comfort will eventually have to come to an end. Its end, though, defies classification, as does the rest of the film. Coppola simply lets her two amazing leads do the work. When the film does arrive at its final, ambiguous moment, it all just seems perfect. The catchy Japan-pop soundtrack that runs brilliantly throughout the film begins to play, and I find myself with a huge regret: that I won't be able to savor the subtle chemistry of Bob and Charlotte, and that a flat-out masterpiece in American film is at its end.
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91 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2004
Format: DVD
I'm reviewing the disc itself here, not the movie. If you're unfamiliar with the movie, you can take your pick from hundreds of reviews online.

This disc is terrible:

1. Universal's decision to bundle ten minutes of ads at the beginning, which cannot be skipped, is classless and grubbing.

2. The mastering is poor -- compression artifacts are evident in dark scenes, and the overall image feels slightly blurred.

3. The audio is poorly mastered, too, abruptly changing levels several times. Did anyone even supervise this transfer?

4. An insert of some kind would have been nice, even just a photo card. Opening the sleeve to just the disc is a mild letdown, and left me wondering if only my copy is like this.

It's a shame a movie this enjoyable was pushed through such a shoddy production process. Let's hope another distributor gets their hands on this soon and does it right.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2004
Format: DVD
.
One of the most interesting aspects of LIT is the market's reaction to it: most of those who caught it in a theater loved it, and a great many who've seen it first on DVD are angry with it.
Why?
1) Well, the grouches are quite right--it's not much of a comedy, there's very little story, and the characters aren't going through giant transformations across the course of the film. If you're sitting at home with your significant other or a bunch of friends, if you're talking, if the sound of crunching snacks in your head is louder than the soundtrack, if the lights are on or the phone rings, forget it, you're done--it's like visiting a zen rock garden with a GameBoy, and your only shot at liking this film is personally relating to what the characters have experienced, or if you've been to Tokyo.
2) The rabid fans are quite right too--LIT is an "experience" film that is mismarketed as a Bill Murray comedy; it's all about sights and sounds, not story. It lets you know this from the very first shot, a long, wordless look at, um, Scarlett Johansson, with a quietly rising and subsiding sound clip from Kevin Shields, the songwriter of the greatest lost band of last twenty years, My Bloody Valentine (if you don't know, YOU BETTER ASK SOMEBODY). There's every chance this bombs at home, but in a theater, in the dark, with great sound and everybody shutting up, it works.
That first shot sets the tone for LIT. There's not a single jump cut or sudden burst of sound in the entire film--it's supposed to be a slow, alluring, engulfing experience; again, this is terrific in a theater, but it's a fragile spell, and it's easy to see why it might not work at home.
3) The grouches are also right when they criticize the dialogue. In literal terms, not a lot is being said. If you don't attach to the characters at all, it isn't hard to start hating a young, pretty, apathetic whiner and a rich middle-aged whiner, both given the luxury of fretting full-time over existential problems, which, if you don't like the leads, seem pretty trivial. It's not hard to see why that doesn't make for a fun movie night.
4) The rabid fans can argue this one--LIT is very much about what's NOT said.
Think about the most verbal characters in the film: they're babbling. The sweetly inattentive husband is wildly inarticulate--he's perpetually distracted, and constantly interrupting his own train of thought. The starlet (a snarky sendup of Cameron Diaz) grows more vapid by the sentence. Bill Murray's wife is nothing but a telephone voice, transfixed by carpet swatches and bored by everything else. And from the dead-serious commercial director to the ebulliently idiotic talk show host, there's no clear translation of the spoken Japanese. For God's sake, when she over-emotes her way through Scarborough Fair, the lounge singer is a self-parody, unintentionally echoing Bill Murray's famous SNL parody of a lounge singer pouring out Scarborough Fair. Every one of them is lost in translation.
In a different way, so are Bob and Charlotte. The reason LIT doesn't have a story is that the entire film is an interlude--two people who suddenly find themselves together, sharing a break from their lives.
And they both seem to really need it--they're sick of the meaningless conversations and logistics that drive their worlds. It's a classic use of the medium, to show the huge gap between what's said and what's seen. Bob and Charlotte are wonderfully quiet and accepting of each other from the get go--they don't have talk much to connect. If you watch for it, there's a silent shift in the film: before she meets Bob, Charlotte is rattled by how numb she feels when she visits a temple and retreats to her hotel room, surrounding herself with junk media. Before Bob meets Charlotte, he sleepwalks through his workday, producing junk media. After they meet, when they spend time on their own, they wander wordlessly and beautifully alone: Bob golfs by himself with Mt. Fuji in the distance, and Mt. Fuji floats by Charlotte on a Kyoto bullet train, as she heads off to visit another temple. They're discovering a less bewildering, more personal Japan, and retrieving themselves as they do it. And all this is shown, not spoken.
5) The grouches have a point: nothing freaking happens in LIT.
6) The fans answer: yeah, exactly. The key to the film is what doesn't happen between the characters. It's no accident that LIT takes place in bustling, frenetic Tokyo, or that the main characters are hopelessly jetlagged and out of sync with everything except each other. If that doesn't sink in early, then you'll miss the many charms of LIT, from the long, lovely shots, the sweet, spare exchanges between Bob and Charlotte, the gorgeously slow shoegazer/trip-hop/dream pop soundtrack (the best since Trainspotting, High Art,and Ms. Coppola's last film, the Virgin Suicides), and the electrifyingly silent ending.
So, sorry if you hated this film. Have a drink, maybe two, turn the off lights, don't talk, watch it again, and you might change your mind.
(Oh, and if you take into account EVERY image of Japanese people in this film--the businesspmen and women, the artists, the florists, the crowds in the street, the surfers, the strippers, the monks, the bride and groom, the elderly patient, the doctor, etc.--it's harder to argue that LIT is an anti-Japanese film, and easier to see it for what it is: an outsider's POV of a few silly and sublime experiences in an unfamiliar culture).
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2004
Format: DVD
It's interesting to see one of the negative reviews that says go look at people in a bar because if you enjoy looking at people in bars you might enjoy this movie. He's right. This movie IS for people who like looking at the human beings around them.
It's for people who like human beings in general. And not for people who are uninterested in people but need something to explode to grab their attention.
Personally I enjoy movies about real people. I enjoy movies where I can see individuals who I might actually meet and care about. I thought this one was very good.
Perhaps much of the bad comment comes because some have been suckered into seeing a movie that's just not their cup of Java. More fool them. There are a lot of gentle, subtle, sensitive films like this that are loved by people who do not love standard lowbrow movies. Most of them come from Europe or Japan. Their usual audiences would not write such stupid comments. (Notice the general level of writing in most of the one star reviews?)
One thing I am happy about with the success of this film is it sends a message to Hollywood producers who like to feed us cr*p like "Bad Boys II" - maybe one of the worst movies ever made.
And that message is: "Hollywood we are not ALL stupid." There are not enough movies like this. Give us more.
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2004
Format: DVD
"Lost in Translation" joins the rank of surreal films that depict life and emotions with such understated fluidity that they fall short of satiating typical Hollywoodesque tastes. "About Schmidt" was one. Coen brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There" was another.

There is little I can add to all the other reviews already here, but I'll focus on addressing the various misconceptions that all the encomium surrounding this minimalistic gem from Sophia Coppola (with the usual baggage of expectations) has given rise to:

(1) SHOWS JAPAN IN A POOR LIGHT, OR POKES FUN AT THE CULTURE
No it doesn't. That sounds like a boorish remark from people who stopped by Tokyo for a couple of days, had Ramen at Ginza and Toro at Shimbashi, sipped a double Latte at Shibuya's Starbucks, and assumed that they had discovered Japanese culture. I still have to see a more accurate rendition of Tokyo's true day-to-day existence than this movie, apart from Tom Selleck's "Baseball" a few years back. Yes, the real Tokyo does have mispronounciations of words like "Flight" (as in, "Have a good fright".) Yes, real translators shorten a good deal of Japanese when interpreting as long as the message is communicated. Most of my Japanese friends would simply laugh along when told of such common trivia. This movie is as much a caricature of Japanese culture as "Patton" or "Sex and the City" are of American culture. (P.S. Murray's character also has a pretty funny remark in the film in answer to the question, "Why do Japanese interchange their Rs and Ls?"). The film is mis-sold as being a movie about Japan, the cultural takes are comic garnish, not elemental to the romantic plot.

(2) IT IS A MEANINGLESS DRAWL, PACED VERY SLOW
Sure, if you have the attention span of a rodent in a cheese store. I found the flow of the movie very pleasing, but then I am guilty of enjoying the likes of "About Schmidt" as well. It's a simple, beautiful, efficient story that is completely and utterly engrossing, with economy of cinematography. It is also just a shade over 90 minutes long, making it quite short in comparison to typical movies of today. But in that short span of time, you experience a dampening feeling of entrapment, a sense of longing (and belonging), you are privy to the story of two people who are lost spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

(3) TRIES TO BE ARTSY AND FAILS
Was it artsy? I am not sure. I surely did not feel that it was pretentious. Why can film not mirror our lives and experiences without shocking or over-embelishing, and still be looked at as a remarkable and moving artform? There is a lot in the movie that perhaps may not hit a nerve with people who expect to be hit on the head with meaning. For instance, there is an overhead shot when the two protagonists were in one of their hotel rooms, in bed talking, fully clothed, he is on his back staring at the ceiling, she is on her side, eyes probably closed, the tips of her feet barely touching the side of his leg, and he moves his hand and puts it on her feet. Then the scene fades to black. It is the kind of tender, non-sexual touch that tells us how close they have become, and that theirs is a relationship of mutual trust and admiration, not one necessarily of lust. I guess this is not for everyone to appreciate.

(4) NOT THE USUAL FUNNY CAMEO FROM BILL MURRAY
Negative. I found Bill Murray to be extremely hilarious in this movie, and while this may sound arrogant, he is funny in a "mature" sort of a way. Like a man who doesn't have to try too hard. In fact, one thing that hits you about Coppola's direction is the honesty in the story telling. You will feel the utter frustration that Murray's character must have felt trying to make sense of a photographer giving directions with pidgin English, for instance.

(5) IT'S NOT ABOUT ROMANCE
Perhaps Titanic was then. The chemistry between the two lead characters in Lost in Translation is very moving, I'd even say it is one of the most wistful, effortless and understanding romances I have seen in a long time in film, the variety only the ilk of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thomson could evoke in an Merchant Ivory production. The very fact that these two characters find themselves groping in the middle of an alien culture brings them together and brings to the surface their similarities -- not only as people, but their similar station in life.

(6) THERE'S NO PLOT!
Right, there isn't. That's the point. I could sit here for an hour and enlist stunning movies that did not pander to an audience that necessarily needs a "plot." It's about a life-changing week in the lives of two people, simple as that. This may or may not work for you.

(7) IT'S ALL ABOUT COPPOLA / FEMALE DIRECTOR / ETC.
This one is the most inane. Let's talk of the film on its merit, leaving all the heritage behind. I didn't care much about The Virgin Suicides, but I have now come to admire Sophia's talents at synthesizing visual, spatial, and sonic impressions. Oodles for film students to learn from!

I adore this glorious masterpiece, and highly recommend it --

(1) If you're not expecting a pedestrian American Pie style comedy with situational goofs and gaffes
(2) If you enjoy a fluid screenplay, like About Schmidt or Royal Tenenbaums
(3) If you want to know the day to day life in Japan, not cultural stereotypes strewn about by populist productions like The Last Samurai
(4) If you relish unspoken romances like "Remains of the Day", "A Room with a View", "One True Thing", "The Road Home"
(5) If you, like me, understand why the title is so wickedly clever. It's not just the meaning of language that is "lost in translation." It is a simple, pithy statement that beautifully captures the essence of everything that we struggle to "find"

This DVD belongs in any self-respecting library.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2004
Format: DVD
I'm not going to fall into the trap of reviewing the reviews here, some of which are utterly mindless. I've watched at least two movies a week for the past thirty years, not counting reruns on TV. That's a lot of movies, well over 3,000, but I still love them even though we do go through periods when everything that comes to the movie-house is garbage. Last year was a good year. One of the best in the past decade. And "Lost in Translation" was one of the best movies. (I also thought "Big Fish" was brilliant and Tim Burton's best movie so far.)
Watching so many movies I can't tell you how sick I get of coming out of the theater knowing that I've just been treated like a lobotomized dummy by film makers who think all movie goers are thirteen year old boys with too many hormones who like to see things blow up.
Sophia Coppola, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson treated me like an adult with enough brain to care about real people making a connection in a strange context. I can hardly praise this movie enough. The low budget does not show, it just serves to make you focus on human details. But then it is always cheaper to make a film about people than about special effects.
I'm bored with movies without characters. I love this one because it had characters and I could care about them. And to those who didn't find it funny, you probably wouldn't like Buster Keaton either. Murray's humor is so deadpan it had me cracking up. Not all humor has to be telegraphed. An unforgettable trip to Tokyo in the company of two people who you really hope will find a little happiness in this world.
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55 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2004
Format: DVD
Well, I'm not going to reiterate what this film is about. But I will defend this film to those who gave it VERY low ratings.
Miss Coppola made a film that serves as an homage to the high Neorealism films of Italy. "Lost in Translation" evokes emotions without forcing tears, anger, happiness, etc. Minimalist in nature, yet rich in content.
Modern audiences are too used to movies that tell us when to cry or when to be happy. Coppola trusts the audience. This film teaches audiences how to truly watch a film. In my opinion, I think it's cheap to zoom in on a tear to cue the audience to feel sad with the actor. It's more difficult for a director to let a camera sit and watch a character, examine them, and just by subtle gestures, we begin to realize the depth of that character.
Ever looked out the window on a bus stop? People sit and wait, and just by looking at them, we know exactly what they're feeling.
The only thing I had a problem with was the use of Anna Faris. Though humorous, I felt she could have played a character who really acted like a serious actress. I felt she knew she was playing a bimbo and made sure the camera captured it. I thought it would have been more effective had she believed she really was a real actress.
Nevertheless, this film will remain timeless. It's a proud film to follow Scarlett Johanssen for the rest of her career, a great performance that Bill Murray will be remembered for, and an extraordinary feat by Sofia Coppola.
This film could have been formulaic: young girl meets older gent. Fall into a mad affair, beautiful love scenes, and a dreamy goodbye. But no. Coppola doesn't want to cheat the audience. "Lost in Translation" is an experience. It's quiet sadness, quiet love, and quiet goodbyes; a demonstration of a real love story.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2004
Format: DVD
I made a review of "Lost in Translation" a few days ago, but it has not appeared here. I saw the film on a plane going from America back to India. Usually I do not watch the films on planes because it is to hard to concentrate but I watched this one all through.
I think it is a lovely film. Bill Murray plays a very kind and funny man. It is easy to see why a young lady will feel some closeness. And Scarlet Johnson is a very sensitive actress as a young lady who's husband seems to not love her very much.
I enjoyed to see the Japanese city and country. And the experiences they have in Japan were like when you go from a small town to a big city. This film made me cry. And it did not make me feel like it was trying to make me cry like sometimes films do. And it is a very quiet story. Not like I am used to in films, but sometimes in books. It is a very wonderful film.
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