Directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris.
The main song on the soundtrack to 'Lost in Translation' is Air's 'Alone in Kyoto'. While the film is set in Tokyo, the song's dreamy, otherworldliness is a perfect aural snapshot of feeling disconnected in a foreign wilderness of neon and noise.
Charlotte (Johansson) is a philosophy graduate tagging along with her photographer husband (Ribisi) on a job. Staying at a plush hotel, she meets ageing film star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) who is in town to shoot a $2m whiskey commercial. Through a combination of ennui and insomnia they meet at the hotel bar – and click.
Both are at different stages in their lives (and marriages to other people) but equally as disillusioned. They develop something that is not a relationship but more than a friendship - Murray brilliant as the jaded actor and Johansson bringing a delicate maturity to a role that was made for her.
Despite being in the world's most modern city, they are confused and bemused by language and cultural differences. Their interactions are philosophical and flirtatious, fun but unconsummated and the sense of both in limbo personally and geographically is palpably conveyed. Think 'Brief Encounter' without the sentimentality and with cooler music.
Just as 'Alone in Kyoto' conveys the characters' alienation, the music throughout wraps itself around the film's many emotions. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine scored the original music while Air's drummer Brian Reitzell picked the soundtrack. Included are Phoenix, Peaches, Squarepusher and the Jesus and Mary Chain. In a great late-night karaoke scene Bill Murray pulls off a heartfelt rendition of Roxy Music's 'More Than This' while Johansson does 'Brass in Pocket' with much vim.
Despite her young years, the ubiquitous Johansson is destined for huge stardom, so catch her in this poignant tale before she pops up in some Hollywood schmaltz that doesn't do her justice. Coppola has said that ‘Lost in Translation' would not have been made if Bill Murray wasn't in it and you can see why. This is probably Murray's best performance ever and he should clear some shelf space before the awards season kicks in.