"I can't tell you how many people have told me that they just don't get Lost in Translation. They want to know what it's about. They complain "nothing happens." They've been trained by movies that tell them where to look and what to feel, in stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. Lost in Translation offers an experience in the exercise of empathy."
Lost In Translation (2003) is the second film directed by Sofia Coppola after The Virgin Suicides. It stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, with Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris in notable supporting roles.Bob Harris (Murray) is a Hollywood actor past his prime, who despite his fame and success feels existentially empty. He goes to Tokyo to play in a commercial for the Suntory whiskey brand. Plagued by insomnia, he meets Charlotte (Johansson), the young and bored wife of a fashion photographer (Ribisi). On the outskirts of the movie is Kelly (Faris), a movie star who is promoting her newest flick.With too much time on their hands and no idea what to do in Japan, Bob and Charlotte drift together and become emotionally close.
Bilingual Bonus: Amusing scenes in which Bob and Charlotte interact with the locals are even funnier if you understand Japanese.
Not to mention the direction given to Bob.
The Director:(in Japanese, to his interpreter) The translation is very important, okay? The translation.
Interpreter:(in Japanese) Yes, of course. I understand.
The Director:(In Japanese, to Bob) Mr. Bob. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then there is a bottle of Suntory whisky on top of the table. You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, "Here's looking at you, kid,"—Suntory time!
The Interpreter:(In English, to Bob) He wants you to turn, look into camera, okay?
The Cameo: Japanese late-night TV host Takashi Fujii, a.k.a. Matthew Minami, as himself.
Celebrity Paradox: Actually a weird subversion. While channel-surfing, Bob chances upon a Saturday Night Live re-run that features a younger Bill Murray, but it is implied that In-Universe it is a movie or TV show featuring Bob Harris, not Murray.
Defictionalization: Suntory started using the Catch Phrase from the fictional Suntory ads in actual Suntory ads run in the United States (which also led Suntory to attempt an expansion of their distribution in America).
Pretty much any time Charlotte is alone in her room. The girl does not seem to like pants.
Fish out of Water: Both Bob and Charlotte are completely unfamiliar with Japanese culture, and find life in Tokyo endlessly baffling.
Foreign Queasine: Bob and Charlotte go to a shabu-shabu restaurant and later mention that it was a terrible experience (although discussion of the lunch is an allusion to the awkward social situation around it).
Japanese Language: Plenty of it, obviously, none of it subtitled. Unless the audience understands Japanese, they are as clueless as the characters about what the locals try to tell them, which fits with both the title and the theme of the film.
Karaoke Box: Bob and Charlotte go to one with their Japanese friends after a party.
Life of the Party: Subverted. As Roger Ebert puts it in his review of the film: "Bob Harris, who could be funny, who could be the life of the party, who could do impressions in the karaoke bar and play games with the director of the TV commercial, but doesn't—because being funny is what he does for a living, and right now he is too tired and sad to do it for free."
Reality Has no Subtitles: It's heavy handed in this, but it works for the movie's story. When two Americans are stuck in Japan for different reasons, and can't speak the native language, they start to feel very isolated, especially in a culture so foreign to the West. Having characters speak in Japanese without offering any subtitles emphasizes the isolation both of them feel, and how alien it could be in that world without anyone around to communicate with.
Someone used audio enhancement to find out what Bill Murray actually said, and posted it on Youtube. But this is a case of Completely Missing the Point, as the audience wasn't supposed to know what Bob said to Charlotte, so Coppola didn't write any dialogue for that moment and instead just told Murray to ad-lib something so they could get the shot of Bob whispering to Charlotte.
Reportedly, someone on a cruise ship asked Murray what he said. As Murray started to reply, the ship's horn happened to blow, so he immediately went with it, acting like he was revealing the secret while no one could hear him.
Also, who is the actor Bob was talking about to the waiter, the actor whom has been married a couple of times and whom Bob doesn't care is gay or not?
Shout-Out: Kelly is in Japan on a promotional tour for a movie that is called Midnight Velocity, sounds like The Matrix, and even stars Keanu Reeves.
The opening shot is a more fanservice-y recreation of one in In the Mood for Love. The dinner scene at the Shabu-shabu restaurant is also a reference to the same movie.