Senior ANDY Editor
This is a very quiet film. Most of the story is told through careful glances, silent movements, and even an inaudible whisper at the end between Bob and Charlotte. Everything is undramatic but still feels fragile.
Both of them are adrift in different age-specific life crises, and the bond they form is based on shared feelings of displacement and dissatisfaction in their lives. I don’t feel that Coppola ever tries to analyze or unpack these characters. She only finds honest ways to show two people who are bored and restless, and we never find them boring. I could identify with both of them. Charlotte, the young woman who doesn’t know who she is supposed to be – and even with Bob, the older man who is lost and weary.
Despite an intimate kiss at the end, in the middle of the Tokyo streets, they aren’t lovers. The physical attraction between them doesn’t really matter. Their friendship is a kind of nothing – talking, laughing, lying down beside each other – but the longing and the loneliness of it all is so relatable that each time I watch the film I feel strangely fulfilled by the end.
Assistant ANDY Editor
He spies the audiobook case on her cluttered hotel room table and picks it up. “Whose is this – A Soul’s Search: Finding Your True Calling?” he asks.
Suddenly, her smile vanishes. “I don’t know,” she answers, with a playfulness that does not match her darting, downcast eyes.
Even though he cannot see her face, he senses her embarrassment and masterfully pivots the conversation. “I have that,” he says.
She laughs. “Did it work out for you then?” she asks, beaming.
“Obviously,” he quips.
This exchange between Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) occurs at the midpoint of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. To me, it is the linchpin of the entire film. In only five shots and five lines of dialogue, Coppola defines the ineffable bond between her two protagonists.
Although they attempt to stifle their feelings with alcohol, cigarettes and karaoke, Bob and Charlotte are profoundly aimless. Her vulnerability and self-doubt are exposed when Bob spots the audiobook case. Yet, rather than questioning Charlotte or changing the subject, Bob outs himself as similarly adrift.
Bob and Charlotte’s mutual ennui binds them together, and I would argue that this type of willingness to appear vulnerable in front of another person is essential for deep and lasting friendship off screen as well.
The tenth anniversary of Lost in Translation’s release is an admittedly esoteric topic for an entire issue of ANDY. Indeed, I sometimes questioned whether Sofia Coppola’s accomplishments truly warrant such a retrospective. Certainly, there are many other young writer-directors with similarly sized, but perhaps more consistently impressive filmographies. Paul Thomas Anderson, Jeff Nichols and Ramin Bahrani come to mind.
But then I think back to Charlotte’s face in the scene that I just described, and how the essence of an entire relationship is inscribed in the rise and fall of her lips. If one scene can define a film, then one film can certainly define this issue.