It really irks me when people say “best [insert noun here] ever” without their tongue firmly in their cheek. These are the people who ride one band from start to finish, although their start is different from the actual band’s start, and never experiment. These are the people who bought one album last year, and that album was Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me. These are the people who have read one book in the last five years, and that book was Harry Potter. These are the people who never got over the fact that Seinfeld ended. These are people who should be shot. That being said, Lost in Translation is the best movie ever.
Yes, I am being somewhat of an obnoxious brat, but get over it. Sofia Coppola’s latest film, her sophomore feature after The Virgin Suicides, another kick-ass film with a kick-ass soundtrack, is a masterpiece of emotions set to visuals. There are three central characters, Bob (Bill Murray), an actor in town to do a whiskey commercial, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a newlywed in town with her photographer husband, and the city of Tokyo itself, the backdrop of the exquisite and touching love that these two share. The film involves the feelings of loneliness, detachment, and confusion being solaced by the presence of someone feeling the same thing. Along the way, Sofia Coppola helps the viewer feel these emotions along with the characters not only through the acting, but through the amazing visuals she presents. The stares out of car, train, bus, and hotel windows remind us that we are them, sometimes looking at the world through a filter, using that filter as a shield, and retreating from what some consider `real-life’.
While the movie is a masterpiece, so is the music. What better person to provide emotions set to visuals than My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields? He provides four like themes for the film (and one from his former band) that all appear on the soundtrack available from Emperor Norton Records. The various songs found on this amazing record provide a dream like quality for the film that befit the insomniac expatriates like a glove.
After a brief introduction to the city of Tokyo, both in the film and on the soundtrack, we are treated to the first Kevin Shields track, “City Girl”. In an interview, Ms. Coppola stated that she had been listening to a lot of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins before making the film. We all know that every self respecting emo fan must have copies of MBV’s Loveless and the Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas in their collection. In fact, I believe that at least Loveless is a must have for every music fan’s collection. Without that album there would be no Smashing Pumpkins, or a hell of a lot of other bands for that matter. “City Girl” is the reintroduction to that music and what a reintroduction it is. The breathy lyrics with the ethereal guitars are back and better than ever. The entire movie made me want to start listening to stuff from the late eighties / early nineties again, but I’ll get into that later.
Next up is Sebastian Teller’s “Fantino”, a short ambient meditation, followed quickly by an even shorter, more ambient, and sparer track, “Tommib” by Squarepusher. “Tommib” is an exercise in what an instrumental Japanese lullaby might have sounded to someone who had never been.
Death in Vegas then makes an appearance with a signature song from the film, “Girls”. Conveying the sadness inherent in the film, the song features Julee Cruise / Twin Peaks-like sighing along a three note guitar and ever increasing drums. To me, this song represents the immediate sense of wonder of being in a place altogether alien and then the panic and hectic feeling that sets in as the world moves too fast around you, as it does for both Bob and Charlotte at times. Another Kevin Shields track, this one without the MBV guitar feel, and more of what appears in the other tracks, is what follows.
Then the soundtrack takes a turn and we end up with a pop track by the band Phoenix called “Too Young”, a definite throwback to the sound of the eighties. This song is then trumped by the only song on the soundtrack by a Japanese act, Happy End’s “Kaze Wo Atsumete”. Great acoustic guitar and Hammond Organ combine to make a wonderful pop song which to my surprise, considering its modern pop sound, was recorded in 1971, the year of my momentous birth!
Brian Reitzell, the music producer on the film, then has one of his instrumental tracks, a mix between Harold Faltermeyer and the ever present influences of Mr. Shields. Another of Shields’ tracks “Ikebana” is a song I would like to wake up to every morning. I just have to find an alarm clock that will play a certain CD track when set. We are then treated to one of the original masterpieces from Loveless, the track “Sometimes”, a perfect addition. Along with “City Girl”, these two tracks make me pine for the long awaited follow-up to the near perfection that was Loveless. This movie soundtrack provides a small taste, and now I am `rehooked’.
The band Air, which provided the music for Coppola’s first feature, The Virgin Suicides, reappears on her second film with the track “Alone In Kyoto”. After you have seen the film, listen to this track and wait for the piano to play its lone isolated chords, and I dare you not to get choked up. A beautiful song, unlike anything on Virgin Suicides, but packed with the emotion necessary for matching the film. With this track, Coppola and Air once again team up to delve into the heart’s deep recesses to find its weakest point, and then proceed to tear it apart, piece by piece, but slowly, and methodically.
After another late eighties-ish Reitzell track, “Shibuya”, and then another Shields meditation, “Are You Awake?”, we are treated to another early nineties gem, The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey”, the perfect end to a perfect film. The opening track to one of the best albums, Psychocandy, acts as a coda for the movie and soundtrack alike, save for the hidden track on the CD, Bill Murray singing Bryan Ferry’s “More Than This” karaoke style. After the movie was over I was sent digging for My Bloody Valentine, all my old Jesus & Mary Chain stuff, and Bryan Ferry / Roxy Music.
Some of the things that I missed on the album were the songs that the characters sang on the karaoke machine: The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”, Elvis Costello’s “(What so Funny `Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”, the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket”, and the aforementioned “More Than This” by Bryan Ferry. I quickly realized after listening to the soundtrack all the way through that they just would have been out of place, and that I already owned each of those songs anyway.
On a side note, now that the record review is over, I must say one more thing about the brilliance of the film itself. My wife, whom I am devoted to forever (you’ll see why I say this later), started the film without any kind of attraction / feelings toward Bill Murray one way or another. I began the film with somewhat of a crush on Scarlett Johansson after Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn’t There. My wife came out of the movie having fallen in love with Bill Murray. I came out of the film aching for Scarlett Johansson like one aches for that certain girl you loved long ago and never quite forgot, so much so that you never ever really forget her face. Thank you, Sofia Coppola, for really nailing those feelings.
Air- The Virgin Suicides
My Bloody Valentine- Loveless
The Jesus & Mary Chain- Psychocandy