LOST IN TRANSLATION
Region 2 (UK) Edition
Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris
Sofia Coppola's critically-acclaimed film
about two kindred spirits lost and culturally-bewildered in Japan, is a
film with broad appeal, at least for those who have the patience to allow
it to unfold in its own good time, and those who don't mind regular
side-steps that serve character, not the plot.
The film focuses on two individuals. Bill
Murray plays a character that must surely be close to his own experiences
and status as a star whose fame has dwindled, even if his talent has not.
Murray's character, Bob Harris, is in Japan to endorse a brand of whisky.
Aside from filming the cheesy commercial itself (replete with high-backed leather chair, roaring fire and
dinner jacket), Harris is also obliged to appear on a bizarre MTV-style
television show. His evenings are spent in the bar, or in his hotel room,
on the phone to his emotionally and geographically-distant wife, Lydia.
Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte,
recently-married but drifting aimlessly in the wake of her A-list
celebrity photographer husband (Giovanni Ribisi, in a role apparently
inspired by Coppola's former partner, Director Spike Jonze). She has
plenty of free time, and spends it wandering the streets of Japan, taking
in the scenery, and observing the local customs.
As luck would have it, Charlotte and Bob
are staying in the same hotel, and their paths begin to criss-cross. They
soon bond, and begin a fleeting, intimate friendship that brings new focus
to both their lives.
Coppola's film begins as a wonderful study
in isolation and alienation, perfectly capturing the experience of being
lost in unfamiliar territory, with the added complication of jetlag. It
initially touches on the regret and despair of its characters, and then
becomes increasingly uplifting, eventually developing into a charming
Momentum Pictures' Region 2 DVD presents the film
in 1.85:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The film was shot in less
than a month, on a very tight budget, and it often shows. The
cinematography is naturalistic, often shot Cinéma Vérité-style.
Most of the film was filmed under what appears to be existing lighting
conditions, sometimes resulting in a generally dull, low-contrast look.
There are many dark scenes where shadows prevail, and here image is murky,
with little definition. Well-lit scenes, however, are
well-nuanced, and colours are occasionally vibrant. Under the right
lighting conditions skin-tones look natural. The DVD transfer would seem
to faithfully replicate the film's original theatrical appearance.
The film has English HoH subtitles, but the
bonus materials do not. There are a couple of English captions during the
film, and these appear in their original format, and are not
The average bit-rate is 5.69Mb/s, rarely
dipping below 4.0Mb/s. There are no signs of encoding artefacts, and very
little evidence of artificial edge-enhancement.
The disc offers a choice of two 5.1 audio
tracks, one in Dolby Digital, the other in DTS. The DTS track (at 754kbps)
has the edge on the Dolby Digital track (at 448kbps), with a slightly
fuller tone during moments where separation and stereo imaging are more
critical. The disc allows switching on the fly. The audio mix isn't
elaborate, but there are a few scenes where the ambient sound is
enveloping. The music is often working hard in the left and right
channels, while keeping a discreet distance from the centre channel's
dialogue, which is always distinct. Like the cinematography, the audio is
generally naturalistic, with a minimum of post-production overdubbing.
The disc has an animated menu screen
offering four basic options, and it's very easy to navigate.
The disc offers just about the perfect
amount of bonus materials for a single-disc
release. The only significant omission is a commentary track, which might
have added a great deal of background information, and a sprinkling of
useful facts that are otherwise missing. Adventurous viewers might, for
example, be very disappointed that few of the film's locations are
The main supplement is "Lost" on
Location, a disorganised thirty-minute fly-on-the-wall-style
behind-the-scenes featurette, which gives the viewer access to various
apparently random stages of the production process. It's full of wonderful
moments, especially when Bill Murray is the focus of attention. Sadly
there's precious little footage of Scarlett Johansson, and practically
none where she's not actually performing for the film, which will surely
frustrate the young star's many admirers.
Matthew's Best Hit TV (5m) is the
on-air feed from a scene where Bob visits an MTV-style show with a
distressingly flamboyant host. Some of the footage is used in the film
itself, when Bob watches it later that evening, but this is a more
Kevin Shields' City Girl Music Video
(3m) is pretty self-explanatory. In addition to making good use of the
1991 track Sometimes (from the album Loveless), the film
features a number of new tracks by My Bloody Valentine's reclusive
guitarist Kevin Shields, his first new material in twelve years. City
Girl bookends the film, appearing under the opening title sequence
(superimposed over a memorable shot of Scarlett Johansson's backside), and
during the end credits. Shields' contributions - and City Girl in
particular - were rewarded by a nomination for BAFTA's Anthony Asquith
Award for Achievement in Film Music. The video features clips from the
There are five Deleted Scenes,
presented in good-quality, unfinished offline format, totalling about ten
minutes: More Aqua Aerobics
(Bob horsing around at the swimming pool), Charlotte With Robots
(Charlotte encounters some knee-high robots), Kelly's Press Conference
(a longer version of the press conference to promote her film,
Midnight Velocity), Morning After Karaoke (Charlotte wakes up,
rings Bob, and invites him for breakfast) and Bob in Hospital Waiting
Room (a longer version of a scene where Bob chats to an elderly
Japanese man). None of the scenes add very much, but fans will definitely
get a kick out of them.
A Conversation With Bill Murray and
Sofia Coppola is a rather awkward ten-minute interview, in which
Sofia and Bill cover a few basic facts and share a few unusual
experiences. There's clearly a terrific rapport between the Director and
her leading man, but the presence of the camera is obviously an unwelcome
The film is charming, but won't be to
everyone's taste. The disc has a very acceptable transfer, with a very
nice multi-channel audio mix. It seems unlikely that the disc's transfer
could be improved upon. The bonus materials are worthwhile, although
fans of Ms Johansson will be disappointed. A commentary track might have
made a big difference. The Region 2 release seems to be practically identical to
the Region 1 version.