Golden Oldies Presents: Lost in Translation

Tyneside Cinema is currently running ‘Chance Encounters: A Short Season of Bittersweet Romances’ and I was sent to see the second film in this series: Lost in Translation. This was my second time watching Lost in Translation and, despite some technical hiccups with the audio at the beginning, it was a really rewarding experience to re-watch the film in 35mm format.

A film about loneliness and emotions being, uh, ‘lost in translation’, the film spans only a few days, without much of a plot other than two people having a brief romantic connection borne of mutual discontent with their own lives, and for familiar homely comfort within the entirely different culture of Tokyo life. The film is far from all doom and gloom though as there are still many sweet and funny moments throughout, living up to the bill of ‘bittersweet’ that Tyneside Cinema promised.

In 35mm, the night shots traversing across the towering lights of the Tokyo skyline were particularly noticeable in a more dreamy and alienating aesthetic, and the candid shots of Bill Murray’s character drinking in a low-lit hotel bar, his face only faintly spotlighted by a table lamp, looked more in place within a 1950s Hollywood piece than it did the early 2000s. These examples and more really did heighten the intimacy and containment of emotion prevalent throughout the film, and served as an elevating role to the chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s lead characters.

“Sofia Coppola’s second directorial effort is a testament to the fleetingness of human moments”

But besides the experience of 35mm projection, Lost in Translation is truly a great film for anyone watching it at home. Its many moments of light-hearted comedy is unsurprising given male lead and usual comedian Bill Murray’s role, but his performance also exhibited a careful balance between emotional reservation and impulse, highlighting the character’s dilemma throughout the film as to whether his life of 25 years being married and having children is worth putting at risk for a moment of revitalisation.

By comparison, Scarlett Johansson’s character is at the infancy of her marriage, using Bill Murray’s character to great effect by using him as an example as to whether lifelong monogamy is worthwhile. Some of the most affecting scenes are those of her just sitting idly in her room, looking out to the city of people she doesn’t know or can really talk to.

Overall, Sofia Coppola’s second directorial effort is a testament to the fleetingness of human moments, one that says there is nothing wrong with the temporary. Some may disagree with this post-romantic vibe, but the soul of the film is just undeniable.

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