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Lost in Translation - Widescreen  (2003)


Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi

Director: Sofia Coppola

Rating: R

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Video

Release Date: February 10, 2004
Review posted: March 3, 2004

Spoilers: None


Reviewed by Ryan Keefer




For as complicated as we humans claim ourselves to be, we really just want to be loved and supported. That's what I think the message of Lost in Translation actually is. After receiving a drubbing for the performance she gave in the final Godfather film, Sofia Coppola (yes, from THAT family) has given us a sweet film that features memorable performances.


Bob Harris (Bill Murray, Rushmore) is a movie star who has flown to Japan to shoot a television ad for whiskey, and is getting paid big dollars to do it. His marriage is cold and distant, he receives notes and faxes from his wife, several thousand miles away, even FedEx-ing him some carpet samples. The words "I love you" seemed to have disappeared from their vocabulary awhile ago. He meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson, The Horse Whisperer), a wife and recent Harvard graduate. She married John (Giovanni Ribisi, Saving Private Ryan), a photographer, and has come with him to Japan on John's assignment to shoot some rock stars. She spends most of her day staring out her hotel room window, trying her figure out her place in the world, and what she wants to do, and thanks to jetlag, that time is abundant.


The two eventually meet in the hotel bar and become friends. They go to a karaoke bar, and as funny as it would be to see Murray break out his lounge singer character from Saturday Night Live (and I was almost expecting him to), it's something that the reserved, lonely character he plays probably wouldn't do. Bob and Charlotte are stuck on a small island of familiarity, and their friendship blossoms from the loneliness they feel in this setting. Would they have met and gotten to know each other in a different, American setting? Who knows? Maybe not, through the experiences they share, and the feelings they may want to act on (but don't) say otherwise.


I'll throw in my opinion to all of it. With how desolate and isolated Bob's marriage is, he doesn't get the chance to feel alive, or have fun anymore. Charlotte helps Bob do that, and I think Bob's whispering is both a suggestion (to keep writing, something she talks about doing) and to thank her for giving him a few fleeting moments of joy that he hasn't had in awhile. Because Charlotte (and Johansson in real life) is so young, it just doesn't seem to me like they would have the romance that people are expecting them to have. They have fun together, and he thanks her for it.


A lot of people have been pulling for Murray to win a Best Actor Oscar for this film, and rightfully so. The familiarities between this and his ignored performance in Rushmore are justified. But Murray plays the role with so much more depth and emotion, that it reminds me a bit of his role in Groundhog Day. It's a funny movie, but I think that's where Murray started showing some emotional range in his characters. And Lost in Translation is not without its own laughs either. As Murray is doing the advertising for the whiskey, and his appearance on a show featuring the "Japanese Johnny Carson," some of the things he does are very funny. Hopefully Murray can see some deserved Academy Award love. [Editor’s note: Sean Penn won Best Actor.]




For better or worse, Universal always puts out a very good looking disc regardless of the film, and Lost in Translation’s 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is another one of those. It looks beautiful, and I just couldn’t find any issues with the transfer. The entire lighting cornucopia that it Tokyo comes through with such vivid reproduction, and yet the blacks and other drab colors still manage to look great.




But on the flipside, putting this film out with a DTS soundtrack really doesn’t do much for it. Sure, the music and environmental sounds are nice, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does that work just fine. And considering the nature of the film, it’s not like giving it a DTS treatment will enhance viewing that much. Essentially it’s a film full of impressive dialogue, devoid of any car chases.




The extras on this disc start with "Lost" on Location, a 30-minute video production diary, filmed by various members of the crew, and even some small time with Coppola’s then-husband, Spike Jonze. I’m not the first to say it, but I’ll repeat it: considering what the end result was for a film with a $4 million budget, they did some amazing work. And Murray’s clowning around and pitching in with some of the crew labor is impressive to hear as well. The phrases he decides to learn in Japanese are hilarious, especially when used in certain situations. All in all, it’s a pretty nice look at the making of the film.


A Conversation with Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray covers the thoughts of the involved parties for 10 minutes, with Murray sporting a beard for his role in an upcoming Wes Anderson film. The two also share their thoughts on the production and crewmembers, but overall, this piece can be skipped.


Next are over 10 minutes of deleted scenes that give you more Bill for your buck, as he interacts with a water aerobics group at the hotel, plus there’s some good footage of Anna Faris’ press conference as Kelly, where she does a dead-on interpretation of Cameron Diaz. I’d say most of this stuff could have been included in the final cut, but then again I’m not up for two Oscars.


Murray’s in-character appearance as Bob on the Matthew’s Best Hit TV is here too, some of it you’ve already seen, the rest gets strange, culminating with Bob in the midst of a “Fear Factor” trick. A music video is included, along with the trailer and other sneak peaks from Focus Features.



A $26.98 SRP? Ugh. Well, it can be had for $20 at most places. Regardless, the sparkling transfer and outstanding film provide for some quality highlights, and it’s definitely a side of Bill Murray that few have seen before, but will enjoy. Highly recommended for rental, but sooner or later, you may find yourself picking this up to own, and you won’t regret it for one minute.




Review originally appeared on


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