Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 14th, 2004
If Sofia Coppola hasn’t redeemed herself from the whole The Godfather, Part III debacle by now, then it simply can’t be done. Lost in Translation is a beautiful film, the likes of which are rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic. (Of course, to be fair, the film was filmed entirely on location in Tokyo.)
Shot on a shoestring budget, Coppola has definitely made a mountain out of a molehill with this film, taking her small story of two ships that cross in the night, and making that night as br…ght and colorful as Vegas on New Year’s Eve. The result is a character study that is delicate and subtle, yet it stands out sharply against the chaos that surrounds it.
A film is only as good as its actors, and lucky for Coppola, she has two amazing thespians at her disposal. Bill Murray plays a weathered old actor, set adrift in a strange land. His female counterpart is the 18-year-old phenom Scarlett Johnasson. She, too, is lost, both in the Japananese culture, and in her life. These two frail characters find solace in each-other, and a kindred soul in the process.
There are really not enough great things that I can say about this film. I love the colors, the fantastic cinematography and the rich lighting. I love the fact that these two souls are in the eye of a hurricane. I love that nothing is explained, but that the narrative is just exposed for what it is. In short, I love this film.
I have been surprised as of late to find the option of a DTS track present on many titles that just six months ago would have not been considered good candidates for such a format. I have also been surprised to find that while I had assumed that a DTS track on such titles would be overkill, it is in fact a wonderful way to present the film. Happily for me, this is one of those titles.
The track present on this title does all things well; it is loud when it should be loud, and gentile when it should be gentile. I was most struck by the sense of space that it provides (unlike the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, also available). DTS has this wonderful ability to fill a room with silence, but still include those little details, such as a distant bird, the rustling of leaves, or a motorbike far in the distance. This ability is crucial to a film such as this, as it beautifully presents the harshness of the surrounding environments, while still leaving room to hear breath, and the movement of clothing during the private moments between the two main characters.
Furthermore, Coppola has once again shown herself to have wonderful tastes in music, as songs from My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields and Death in Vegas wash over the images, and do their part to provide the kind of soft chaos that is to crucial to the telling of this story.
Video quality on this film is simply excellent. Black levels are deep, both in the spaces between the neon in the Tokyo skyline, and in the superb wardrobe choices. Bright colors, such as the gaudy sets of “Matthew’s Best Hit TV”, are also treated with kindness, and come across as vibrant and bold, but not overbearing.
The whole film is simply beautiful. From the bright Tokyo nights, to the smoky hotel bar, to a Buddhist temple, the entire city looks picture-postcard perfect. Johansson’s delicate red hair is treated softly, as is the well-worn face of Murray. This is truly a video presentation worthy of Upcoming Disc’s highest honors.
The extras on this disc are sadly sparse. There are a few trailers present upon inserting the disc, including one for the intriguing Jim Carey film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as 21 Grams, Swimming Pool, and of course, Lost in Translation. Also present are five extended or deleted scenes. As is usually the case, these scenes are mostly unnecessary, or they would have been included in the final cut of the film.
One particularly bizarre and interesting scene is set apart, however. This is the extended version of Bob Harris’ appearance on the television program, “Matthew’s Best Hit TV”. While much of this footage is present in the film itself, it is interesting to see it in its uncut form. I would have thoroughly enjoyed some background into the creation, design and shooting of this scene.
Also included is a music video for Kevin Shields’ “City Girl”, and a conversation with Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola. The best extra by far, however, is the ”Lost” on Location featurette, which consists of home video footage of the shooting of the film. While this type of thing usually amounts to product filler, this one is particularly interesting, as much of the film was shot “guerilla style” in the streets of Tokyo, without government permits. Literally, a small crew would enter the streets of Tokyo and capture the action as discreetly as possible, so as to not disturb the natural locations throughout the city. For aspiring filmmakers who may be wondering how to create a poignant film on the cheap, this should be required viewing.
Moviegoers would do well to take a break from the standard Hollywood faire, and take an afternoon to sink into Lost in Translation. It is a beautiful and subtle film, which proves that sometimes, the space between the dialog is what matters the most. Sofia Coppola has found her true calling. Both Lost in Translation and her directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides, are wonderful films that find beauty in the most unexpected places. This top-notch DVD comes highly recommended.
Special Features List
- A conversation with director Sofia Coppola and actor Bill Murray
- “Lost on Location” – behind-the-scenes featurette including exclusive footage shot by the filmmakers
- Deleted scenes
- Music video