Thu September 18, 2003
Lost in Translation
This film translates into one of the best movies of the year.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Having asexually but lovingly interacted with a few women younger than I, I have finally found a film to legitimize those unions. Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" connects my joy to the superior performance of Bill Murray as a married, middle-aged movie star making a whiskey commercial in Tokyo. His connection with Scarlett Johansson as a brainy recent college grad in a losing marriage to a successful photographer is platonic with an undercurrent of non-fatal attraction.
I was moved by Christine Lahti's "My First Mister" with Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski as a middle-aged haberdasher and a 17-year old Goth girl, which caves to the Hollywood need for sex. "Translation" goes much further in building friendship over sex, to the sweet extent that I forgot the age difference between my loves and me and longed to keep all of them as young as I in heart forever.
Whether or not Murray and Johansson sleep together is so beside the point when considering the sweetness and light they give each other as they try to translate their struggling marriages into understanding. Coppola takes us through a Times Square/ Piccadilly Circus neon background that makes me long to visit Tokyo, a heretofore missing desire for this frequently-traveling critic.
At one point, a TV monitor shows Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the famous fountain of "LA Dolce Vita." The depth of characterization and the superior acting (Murray deserves an Oscar nomination) outstrip Fellini's grand moment between the generations. When Murray croons Roxy Music's "More Than This," it's every bit as amusing as his best work in SNL and as poignant a turn as he has ever had in his best movies.
But the theme is the same in all these January/May affairs: love transforms; the age differences are merely minor players in a much more spectacular evolution of spirits released from the bondage of convention.
Sophia Coppola has her father's gift to objectify the heart in the landscape and adds her original talent for finding graceful moments in silence. That translates into one of the best movies this year.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.