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By Ed Driscoll · February 11, 2004 01:51 AM · Hollywood, Interrupted

LOST IN TRANSLATION: We watched Lost in Translation Monday night, the "It" film of 2003. The cinematography was stunning, Bill Murray did a tremendous job of playing...Bill Murray (although a very subdued, world-weary Bill Murray; this film would make a nifty double-feature with Groundhog Day) and the first two thirds of the film were amazing.

I've always liked somewhat open-ended movies that create a world and allow the viewer to get lost in it. In a way, Lost in Translation is vaguely reminiscent of Kubrick's more open-ended films, as well as oddly enough, Antonioni's Blowup (although minus the murder mystery plot of course--they still bothered with some nuance of a plot back in the Jurassic pre-postmodern days of 1966.)

Sophia Coppola, with the help of Lance Acord, her cinematographer, create a beautiful, surrealistic Tokyo as the backdrop--heck, maybe even the frontdrop--of her film. But anybody who's ever traveled (even if they've never left the country) knows that feeling of being awake at 2:00 in the morning in a strange hotel in a strange city, in a strange timezone--all of which your body is unaccustomed to.

That's the essential feel this film initially creates, and Coppola gives plenty of room for her stars (Murray and newcomer Scarlett Johanssen) to wander around in.

It's gotten very mixed reviews--it seems like one of those films that critics either love or hate. Thomas Hibbs (the author of Shows About Nothing) is in the former camp, and wrote:

Whatever note of hope there is in the film comes not from a clear affirmation of renewed purpose, but from the negative but potentially liberating judgment that all is not lost, that it is entirely too soon to write off these lives. Lost in Translation offers more than a glimpse of what it might mean for Hollywood to recover a sense of film making as a craft.
On the other hand, James Bowman hated it, deriding it as a film too driven by its feelings, and its characters' feelings, to count for much.

I can see Bowman's point, and the film's lack of plot causes it to peter out in its final act. But in a year when, (other than the titanic Lord of the Rings films) Hollywood could do little but blow things up and indulge in verbal scatalogy, this little gem of a film is well worth renting, particularly its widescreen DVD, especially if you've got a 16X9 TV set to view its dazzling cinematography.

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