Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Boy did I love Lost in Translation. It's both overwhelmingly sweet and fiercely unsentimental in a near-perfect balance, which is difficult enough for anyone to pull off, let alone someone as young as LiT's writer-director Sofia Coppola. I couldn't stand her previous film The Virgin Suicides, so I was skeptical of the almost universal great reviews that LiT has been getting.

But the film is wonderful. It's really made by the amazing lead performances by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. They draw the viewer in and don't let go. Coppola wisely lets them captivate us and doesn't call attention to herself with directorial technique. Nothing is allowed to distract us from the emotional world that the two leads create--even the Japan that the film is set in is less of a locale than it is a recurring phenomenon, bizarre and inexplicable and temporary.

This is Murray's best performance by a factor of millions, especially in two scenes toward the end of the film where his face is uncannily expressive; Johansson, in a star-making performance, is just as good. There is also a hilarious, letter-perfect Cameron Diaz parody by Anna Faris, along with lots of great sight gags. There is just so much to love about this movie, not least the novel and refreshing idea that[spoiler] two people can like each other without having to sleep together. Bad sex scenes in movies have become a kind of prosthetic device for lazy, untalented screenwriters to clue the audience in that, hey, these characters like each other! [/spoiler] Lost in Translation is my favorite film of the year so far.

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