Lost In Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation (2003)
Directed by: Sofia Copolla
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Drama, Romance
Runtime: 100 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.6

In this eye-opening story, the two lonely individuals that merge the illusions of what they have and what they could have are two Americans. The emotional refuge, Tokyo. We have Bob Harris (Bill Murray), and actor in his fifties who was once a star, and is now supplementing his incomes with the recording of a whisky commercial. On the other side of the telephone, a frightening reality: his wife, his sons, and the mission of choosing the right material for heaven knows what part of the house. When we consider Bob's situation, we realise that Lost in Translation is also a meditation on the misery of fame. Certainly fame has great advantages but then there are the obligations, the expectations. We also have Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a woman in her near twenties who is accompanying her husband, a photographer addicted to work, on a business trip. But it could said it is as if she is alone anyway. Her world, just like Bob's, is reduced to strange days in the bedroom, the corridors, the hotel's swimming pool, and the bar, the perfect destination for victims of sleeplessness and wounded soul. The bar is the place Bob and Charlotte meet for the first time. They talk, little, but just enough. Once their dislike for parts of their lives are established, they begin sharing times that feel dead to be able to feel alive. Scarlett Johanssen plays Charlotte with just the right amount of emotion that her initially morose and soul-searching character doesn't seem silly. At one point, she tearfully admits over the phone, "I don't know who I married." This may come off as silly, but consider her position: far away from home, newly married, in a big intimidating city, and her husband is away on a photo shoot. Bob, on the other hand, seems to have it made, but Murray lets a current of loneliness run across that memorable face that seems to hint at something more. He gets comical faxes from his wife about bookshelves and carpet samples, but he gives off the impression that he's come to the point where he doesn't even care anymore.

Charlotte possesses an intellectual maturity that inevitably leads to boredom with men her own age, including Charlotte's husband, who conveniently ducks away for a photo shoot, foolishly leaving his tagalong wife unattended. Charlotte loves her husband because she is supposed to, but wonders what she is missing, a question Murray spends most of the film answering for her. Bob Harris's marriage runs only on inertia and memories now, but both forces are strong and he is not about to abandon such a history. While stuck in Tokyo, sparks erupt between Bob and Charlotte as the two fit together like lost pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Sex could occur at any time, yet does not occur for the very reasons it should occur: the characters, have far deeper and more fascinating explorations in store than the mere physical release of sexual tension.

These two environmentally alienated people meet in an unfamiliar environment and slowly grow on each other. It seems that neither can sleep, probably because deep down, they realize that life is ticking by like an old regulator clock with a broken chime. In some ways, you might say that Bill Murray's character sees Scarlett as the embryo of his present existence. Charlotte bonds to Bob for a taste of her own developing life drama. While its two protagonists try to find mutual solace in each other, their silence is as expressive as their words. This is a film that believes that an individual can have a valuable relationship with someone else without becoming part of that person's life. 

Bob and Charlotte are souls in transition for whom, surrounded and confused by exotic rituals, and a different language, allows them a moment to lose their identities. Both characters provoke similar feelings form different experiences. There are no kisses or crazy nights between them, but only a shared intimacy in which a night out, a walk in the streets, a session of karaoke becomes a powerful expression of their affection an complicity. The relationship we all await only happens in our minds and the protagonists, whom we are not allowed to know everything they say and desire. Tokyo metaphorically speaking is the third character in the film. The bright colours, the noise of the city, just everything evokes the various spiritual awakenings of the characters.

The movie takes a while to truly glean out the deep-seated motivations of both of its characters, but they become fully-realized in a miraculous scene where Bob and Charlotte lay fully-clothed in bed together. Here, they handle the 'big' questions in life, like "What is my purpose?" and "Does marriage get easier?" I was amazed at the honesty of the character's responses. Bob relates to Charlotte the experience of having children and the ongoing struggles of marriage, but a tinge of fear and apprehension runs through his speech. Charlotte hasn't really figured things out for herself yet - she says she's tried just about everything but hasn't found that niche. Coppola's screenplay takes these two separate beings, far apart in age and experiences, and makes a profound statement - both are in the same exact emotional limbo. Charlotte is confused and worried, but Bob is regretful and washed-up. In a way, these two are some form of deeply odd soul-mates. That is the heart and soul of Coppola's work.

How many of you can relate to and have actually been that guy/girl on business, in the hotel in some foreign city, happily married yet feeling alone and beaten by life's banality? How many of us have been tempted in that very situation, to stray from the confines of moral adherence for the lure of a forbidden, if fleeting, joy? How many have felt that tingle- that spark- when a stranger smiles and you think, "you know, in another life..."? Change the time, place and all of us have been there whether we admit it or not. 

The characters here are true. Their dialog is true. The setting is true. It's all tirelessly fascinating because we can all relate to it and it involves us in a way that most movies do not. We find ourselves drawn to every moment these two experience together and apart. We are intrigued by the glances, nuances and words they share.

this movie is not for everyone. It is a movie about human experience and personal relationship. It isn't out there to entertain (although there are some funny scenes), it is out there to make you feel. People who have very strong empathetic tendencies will adore this movie. This movie is about characters and the relationship between Bob and Charlotte is so authentic, so free of Hollywood trappings, its an absolute wonder to behold. Charlotte needs Bob for his humor and charm, and Bob needs Charlotte because she is a reminder of the youth he longs for in his past. Their parting ways at the end is absolutely heart-wrenching, but at the same time, makes one feel so inexplicably happy that one can't stand it. Another aspect of what makes this film so incredible is the cinematography. The shots of Tokyo are breathtaking, a contrast of the hyper-modern city of today and the Imperial majesty and beauty that was feudalistic japan. Not to mention the soundtrack- it just wouldn't be the same movies without it.


Submarine (2011)

Submarine (2011)
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige
Genre: Drama, coming of age
Runtime: 97 minutes
WI's Rating: 8.1

 It tells the story of Oliver Tate who is caught at the junction between childhood and adulthood as he struggles with his first feelings of love, desire, heartbreak and must choose what path he wishes to take that'll define who he is for the rest of his life. Tate (Craig Roberts), a strange, intelligent and unnervingly confident schoolboy who falls for an equally strange girl Jordana (Yasmin Paige), a sarcastic, chain-smoking femme fatale with a bit of a pyromaniac who hates anything romantic. After an incident which sees Oliver reluctantly participate in a spot of casual bullying that causes a girl to fall into a muddy pond, Oliver and Jordana begin their unusual romance. All seems to be going well until Oliver suspects his mother Jill (Sally Hawkins) of having an affair with cheesy self-help guru Graham (Paddy Considine), who lives next door. His father Lloyd (Noah Taylor) is so passive and uncaring that he is practically a zombie, and so Oliver takes it upon himself to rescue his parent's broken marriage whilst holding his own fragile relationship together.

Jordana contrasts heavily against Oliver's intellectualism, not as a ditsy bimbo but a self-confident every-girl. Outspoken but no revolutionary, fits-in but isn't popular and isn't gorgeous. She's a cute, average girl. She is equally naïve as Oliver when it comes to sex, but she has the self-confidence to keep things into perspective. She doesn't like romance yet is too young to have been romanced; make-up is minimal with half-polished fingernails; she doesn't use complex sentences to convey her unique traits in the eyes of Oliver. Because of this, Oliver's infatuation with her is earnest, her heartbreak in the final act has weight and their intimacy is adorably off-centre.

It may sound somewhat similar to all the coming-of-age stories that have hit the cinema recently, but what makes Submarine so special is Richard Ayoade's ability to capture the essence of growing up; the joy, the optimism and the tenderness alongside all the angst, confusion and depression too. I defy anyone to not see themselves plastered up on that silver screen in the film's opening as Oliver fantasises about the adoration and attention he'd receive if he died.

This is a sharply observed black comedy and coming of age story, built from great energy and a script that is brimming with clever details. The centrepiece of this film is the creation of this bizarre, nosey and self-absorbed teenager. And what a clever creation Oliver Tate is. He's such a fun character and a perfect vessel for the film's entirely quirky and very cynical dialogue. The hysterical opening vision of students lighting candles in remembrance of his hypothetical death perfectly visualises the bizarre and hilarious mind of this egotistical and obsessive protagonist. That was one of the most unexpected, original moments and that made me laugh a lot. There are so many quotable lines and memorable little quirks, like the way Oliver measures his parent's love life by how much they've turned the light switch, or when he describes his pipe and hat phases. It can gently nudge everyday life for people in this community. I love all the attention Ayoade applies to all of his characters, not just the protagonist. Lloyd is, for example, a biologist who remembers random facts like the exact depth of the ocean and in the family dining room you'll notice the huge fish tank. There's also a funny moment where Oliver remembers his dad spoiling every Christmas by saying what the presents are before someone has unwrapped them. All of the jokes here are smart because they have the purpose of building character.

The tone the film goes for is similar to Wes Anderson films and French New Wave but it still comes off as felling rather fresh. The use of title cards, inner monologue and a smart lead are all used very well and actually lead to a fair share of fun scenes. The unusual use of colour, frequent cuts and shifting narrative all come together to give the film a quirky style and in some ways reflect Oliver's different view upon the world itself. The film is also shot beautifully. The gorgeous views of beaches and far away scenery are great to view, while the views of intimacy and school life are shown with great understanding. Especially good is were Oliver imagines his romance on a super 8 tape, which is a very witty idea and quite striking to see. Ayoade does a fantastic job of capturing the teenage feelings of tenderness, fun, love, sadness and angst too. The chemistry between Roberts and Paige is also excellent and feels normal, you understand why they would like each other despite differences. The music is superb, the songs by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner are very delicate and soft but packed with feeling that fits the film perfectly. 

The ups and downs of this British comedy are mainly due to Ayoade's wonderful screenplay and direction that are touching yet never slip into sentimentality - he often playfully pokes fun at it in many cases – but what also deserves credit are the poignant score by Arctic Monkey's singer Alex Turner, the cinematography that effortlessly shifts between comic framing and beautiful imagery and the note-perfect performances by the entire cast.