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It's time to take a look at a quieter, sweeter, and maybe happier film in this series. Sophia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" is a wonderful romantic comedy that doesn't play by the usual rules of its genre. In this episode, Michael talks to us about how the film works as well as why the film works so well.

Also, does it critique Capitalism? It might! Strap in!!!


Check out all 15 films we'll be talking about below!!!

Citizen Kane
Where Are My Children?
In the Mood For Love
Do the Right Thing
Lost In Translation
Apocalypse Now
Pan's Labyrinth
The Limey
Three Colors: Blue
The Eagle Huntress
Beasts of No Nation
2001: A Space Odyssey


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Movies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big and loud and thrilling, while others are small, finely crafted gems. And there are few love stories as soft-spoken and full of soul as Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. It's a movie that sneaks up on you, using artistry that feels so natural that the precision of its craft is only clear if you think about it afterward. This film also wrestles with complex questions about modern consumer culture and how cinema can authentically portray a woman's point of view. And did I mention it's funny? Even as it tugs at your heart. 

[Crash Course intro] 

Writer-director Sofia Coppola had only made one feature film before she began working on Lost in Translation. That film, The Virgin Suicides, was based on a book by Jeffrey Eugenides. It tells the story of the mysterious and doomed Lisbon sisters in 1974 Detroit, as remembered by the neighborhood boys some forty years later. It's a complex, dreamy movie that establishes Coppola as a master of tone, perspective, and imagery. With Lost in Translation, Coppola both expanded her scope - exploring the eclectic world of contemporary Japan - while also focusing the drama on two central characters.

Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, a 20-year-old woman who's come to Tokyo with her rock-and-roll photographer husband, played by Giovanni Ribisi. A recent college graduate and philosophy major, Charlotte is adrift - not only in this foreign city, but in her marriage, and even in her life. 

Bob Harris is a movie star. Or...he was a movie star. Now he flies to Tokyo to spend a week shilling for a high-profile Japanese whiskey company - recording commercials, making talk show appearances, and suffering from insomnia. In one of the film's many ironies, Bob is played by Bill Murray, who was once a major movie star himself. Unlike Bob, Murray has emerged from the height of his fame into a late career full of meaty roles that are often as sorrowful as they are funny. And his Bob Harris is no exception. 

This film is patient. We spend a lot of time getting to know Charlotte and Bob alone before they ever meet each other. We see them trapped in the interior spaces of their luxury hotel, dealing with spouses who don't seem to be on the same wavelength, and mesmerized by the lights and sounds of the city. When they do start to interact, it's tentative: a smile in an elevator, a look across a crowded lounge, and eventually, a brief conversation at the bar. When Charlotte's husband heads out of town for a few days to work, Charlotte asks Bob to come out with her and some of her Japanese friends. The two have an easy, funny rapport. They seem to recognize something in one another, like kindred spirits. 

Charlotte: So, what are you doing here?
Bob: A couple of things. Taking a break from my wife. Forgetting my son's birthday. And getting paid two million dollars to endorse a whiskey, when I could be doing a play somewhere. 

Charlotte is an old soul, and Johansson plays her with an effortless, mournful charm that belies her youth. Bob begins this film as a sad sack, until Charlotte draws out his youthful charisma. And Murray makes both sides of his character feel genuine, funny, and moving.

As their relationship deepens, the movie never quite goes where we expect. Bob and Charlotte comfort and confide in one another, essentially falling in love. But they never cross the line into a physical affair. Although we do see them struggling to figure out how physical love fits into their connection. Near the end of the film, they share an awkward set of goodnight kisses in an elevator. But they seem to be grappling with what's expected of them, rather than any deep-seated sexual desire. In fact, the one thing that ruptures the bubble of their relationship is when Bob sleeps with an over-the-top lounge singer. But Charlotte seems just as upset by his betrayal as she is by the fact that she feels jealousy at all.