Lost in Translation

Having heard many positive reviews and recommendations from trusted sources, I finally saw Lost in Translation this past weekend. Rael’s one-line film review is right on target:

Bill Murray’s art of subtle stone-faced yet pee-your-pants-laughing humour is a brilliant bit of slight-of-hand, keeping you just skimming the surface of the touching, beautiful, and sometimes sad undercurrent.

My only dispute with this review is with the description of the movie as only “sometimes sad.” It’s pervasively sad, even during the “pee-in-your-pants-laughing humour.” It’s one of those experiences in which you have to wonder whether the tears in your eyes are from laughter or sadness. You’re constantly being pulled in both directions at once, which enforces the movie’s unsettling art of disorientation (the Tokyo setting is perfect for capturing the feeling of alienation).

Sophia Coppola shows that she can balance comedy and existential angst with a deft and delicate hand, just as she shows that she can write older men and younger women with equal compassion and grace. It’s also clearly Bill Murray’s best performance ever. He shows how much he’s matured as an actor, even since his unexpectedly brilliant role in Rushmore. (Though his character does play a little golf in Lost in Translation, you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting Caddyshack.)

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