Every so often a film comes along and completely takes me by surprise. I had heard good things about Lost in Translation before viewing the title a few weeks ago. Critics hailed this as Bill Murray’s comeback as he played a genuine man who simply didn’t know what to do in life anymore. While critics may have been overly generous to the film (not quite four stars), I will admit that I didn’t expect anything at all from this one. In the end, I came away shocked and completely absorbed by the material in front of…me.
The basic premise of Lost in Translation runs along the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) meeting while visiting Tokyo for completely opposite reasons. Bob is shooting a new whiskey commercial, while Charlotte is playing tag along with her photographic husband (Giovanni Ribisi). The two soon develop a friendship that finds the two putting themselves in situations very foreign to each other (meeting citizens, laughing about events that might seem odd). This leads the two to ultimately discover that the definition of life is never set in stone, as it can change at the oddest moment.
The pure entertainment from a film like this doesn’t necessarily comes from the laughs (as there aren’t really that many), but more over the pure genuine feelings that you receive from both Charlotte and Bob. Both are at completely different ages, but both connect on a level that we all surely have connected at before. We’ve all met that person that you never thought you’d connect with (not even on a ‘love’ level, but more on a friendship level), but ended up developing this type of relationship that saw both of you connecting on a level that you rarely reach with anyone. When you add in that Murray and Johansson are perfect in their roles, you end up really viewing this film not as a film per-say, but rather as a type of real-life situation since the relationship both develop seems so real.
As I just mentioned, Murray and Johansson were perfect here. Murray at this point was a household name, while Johansson was just developing here career. What a film to begin on. Even though her acting doesn’t approach award-caliber, what makes her character seem so convincing is that we truly begin to connect with how lost she is in her current life. She has a loving husband whom she may love, but doesn’t know what to do with her life. Many days she simply sits in her hotel room wondering what to do next until she meets Bob. As soon as she meets Bob, its almost as if she developed a new part of her life as she finally found that missing piece. Bob, on the other hand, is completely bored with his life as he finds shooting commercial after commercial for whiskey has zapped his life of any real potential. Upon meeting Charlotte, Bob acts like he has been resurrected and given a second life full of promise and opportunity. He has finally connected with someone who feels and sees the world in the manners he does.
A funny thing happened when I inserted this HD DVD into my player. I got the standard coming from Focus Features that appeared on Brokeback Mountain, but instead of skipping past the titles, I decided to watch the previews and I realized something. Focus Features may not make the biggest titles, but every single film they make all contain such interesting and compelling characters that we may not immediately connect with upon completion of the film. But as the hour or day finishes after viewing the film, we realize that the characters are more and more like us. After all, aren’t all “Lost in Translation” about something in our life?
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 1:85:1 transfer, Lost in Translation marks another HD DVD title from Universal that stands as a considerable upgrade over its SD counterpart.
The biggest issue with the SD DVD release was the amount of video noise and grain that plagued the screen, especially during the constant dark sequence. While this HD release doesn’t completely fix this issue, the grain doesn’t feel as noticeable this time around. Color usage, a majority of them being darker like black, helped to capture the moods and themes of Tokyo. Detail, another issue in the SD DVD release, has been improved here. Take a look around 20 minutes in the film. The detail here on the billboards is far greater than we could ever make out before. Having just seen the SD DVD release a few weeks back before watching the HD DVD release, I’d rate the SD release a 3/5. Since the HD DVD release fixes a few issues, I’ll give this one a mark higher.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, the audio in this film is extremely important as a majority of the film is dialogue based.
Dialogue, luckily, was simple and clear throughout never becoming overly difficult. I’ve been searching through a few forums lately and I see that a lot of people are asking if the HD release, due to it boasting improved audio, makes the final statement from Bob to Charlotte any easier to understand. The point of the film was that we aren’t suppose to hear what he says as it is, pun intended, ‘Lost in Translation’. Anyhow, dynamic range was pretty much absent except for a few of the sequences where an artist was performing (we could make out a drum hit or two). The overall soundtrack is very subtle and doesn’t ever need to be powerful. This release marks another solid audio presentation from the folks at Universal.
While it’s nice that Universal ported all the extra’s over from the SD release, it would have been nice if Coppola sat down and recorded a few comments on her film.
- ”Lost” on Location: Behind-the-Scenes Documentary: At 30 minutes in length, this documentary was entertaining and funny as it showcased Murray unscripted as he acted like his silly old self. We get to hear about the shooting schedules the cast and crew faced (including a few inclement weather days) and a few short comments from Coppola.
- A Conversation with Billy Murray and Sofia Coppola: Running around 9 minutes in length, this conversation sees both participants shed a bit of information about the various characters in the film and what it was like shooting in Tokyo.
- ”City Girl” Music Video by Kevin Shields: Just as the title states, we get the music video for “City Girl” by Kevin Shields.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes: This was a big disappointment here for myself. I expected a bit more substance here, but all we really get are five extended sequences that don’t really do much for the film.
I continue to write that I thank HD DVD and, in particular, Universal for releasing the films they do as it gives me the chance to finally see all the missing gems that I should be seeing. Universal continues their winning ways with improved video and audio, but no real new features, which is a disappointment. Still, the film is great and comes recommended solely for that.
Special Features List
- ”Lost” on Location: Behind-the-Scenes Documentary
- A Conversation with Billy Murray and Sofia Coppola
- ”City Girl” Music Video by Kevin Shields
- Deleted and Extended Scenes