Lost in Translation (Blu-ray) (2003)

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Released 1-Feb-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-A Conversation With Bill Murray And Sofia Coppola
Featurette-"Lost" On Location
Featurette-Matthew's Best Hit TV
Music Video-Kevin Shields: City Girl
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-On The Set Of Sofia Coppola's Somewhere
Trailer-Somewhere
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 101:46
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sofia Coppola
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bill Murray
Scarlett Johansson
Giovanni Ribisi
Anna Faris
Fumihiro Hayashi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Kevin Shields


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
French Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, this is Tokyo, after all
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The career to date of Sofia Coppola has been interesting, both from an artistic and historical point of view. Sofia is, of course, the daughter of one Francis Ford Coppola, who has directed some of the best films in the history of the medium. Although she appeared in and worked on a number of things beforehand, Sofia's first brush with notoriety came when she took over a role in The Godfather, Part III and attracted a storm of negative notices. Fast forward nearly a decade, and aside from a cameo in a Star Wars film, Sofia gets her name in the press with a low-budget drama called The Virgin Suicides. For reasons I am not going to get into here, I found the film both disturbing and compelling. Four years later, I see Bill Murray on late night television, discussing the latest film he was starring in at the time, Lost In Translation. An excerpt was shown, in the form of Murray's character having a one-sided conversation with one of the locals at a hospital. So I went to see the film at a local theatre.

     As I have said in another review, it is all about context. Calling the people I saw Lost In Translation with at the theatre a pair of irritating, ignorant gerbils is an insult… to irritating, ignorant gerbils. And calling the theatre I saw it at an annoying mole on the map's most sensitive icky bits… you get the idea. So after a long time and a few copies on DVD-R, I slowly absorbed and digested the film. I came to the conclusion that the initial assessment I had made was unfair, but neither is the film as great as I heard some make out at the time.

     Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor whose career is in something of a slow period. As he arrives in Tokyo to shoot commercials for Suntory whisky, we learn through his side of 'phone conversations with his wife that his family life is in something of a minor shambles. After some encounters with locals that demonstrate one can do all the listening in the world and it does no good if people do not make the effort to make themselves understood, he crosses paths with a young woman named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). Charlotte is somewhat dispirited because she is in Japan with a husband named John (Giovanni Ribisi), who works as a photographer. Left on her lonesome for lengthy periods of time, and finding herself unable to relate even when John is around due to the presence of some very vapid people, Charlotte invites Bob to accompany her on excursions with some locals. As Charlotte and Bob bond, we see through proxy of them that it is in fact possible to be lonely in a city that has a population density of over six thousand per square kilometre. (To clarify for those not getting it, Sydney's density is in the order of 2,058 per square kilometre.)

     Some commentators have decried Lost In Translation as being racist or having clichéd "jokes". Whilst there are some moments of great political incorrectness, I think they work as reflections on how alienated the characters feel in their environment. One shot early on has been decried as the tired old joke about how short the Japanese still generally are. Having been to places in Queensland and Melbourne where I have anywhere between an inch or even eight over all but one or two of the people I cross paths with (I am five-eight and change if this tells you anything, and when I say people I actually mean the men), I am inclined to treat this shot as a way of demonstrating how alien it can make one feel when everyone else in the room tempts you to put your drink on top of their head. But that is just me.

     Point being that unlike a lot of films where we are told what to think and feel, Sofia Coppola takes the bold step of showing us images and piping dialogue at us, then letting us make up our minds what to think about it. For any director, even one with her connections in the industry, that is a brave move. If there is one criticism I must level at Lost In Translation, it is very languid in its pacing. Ten to twenty minutes could have been snipped without it really harming the film in any way. That is the primary problem I had when I saw it for the first time, I realised on subsequent viewings. If, however, you can handle a drama about people dealing with a strange situation, Lost In Translation is worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Universal Home Video have generally improved significantly since their early releases on Blu-ray Disc, but is still very disconcerting to see the claim "perfect picture & purest digital sound" emblazoned in bold, italicised text across the top of the back cover. As the science of photography currently stands, perfect picture is a contradiction in terms. Also of note is that Sofia Coppola opted to shoot Lost In Translation on film. Her father urged her to shoot it on digital video, apparently, but the story goes that she felt that film feels "more romantic". That it may well do, but since experts agree that in order to equal the resolution of a 35mm film cel, a digital image needs to be 4000 pixels tall (yes, you read that right), I can think of nineteen million and change better reasons.

     The credits state that the film was shot entirely on location in Tokyo and Kyoto. The film gives no credible reason to dispute this. The transfer is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. As one would expect from a film shot on film in these places, it is sharp. However, it is not as sharp as I would have expected from this film, and I cannot help but feel some detail was lost in the transfer stage in this instance. Shadow detail is exactly as I remember it from the theatrical exhibition. Noise is evident in some night-time shots in small amounts, but it appears to be grain from the manner in which these sequences were shot rather than the low-level variety of noise.

     The colours in the film were generally muted and subdued, with only a handful of bright or garish moments in places such as video arcades or neon-lit streets. Skin tones are very natural, and lighting is very well-controlled, without any flaring. The transfer does not introduce any bleeding or misregistration.

     The transfer is compressed in the VC-1 codec. During one sequence where we see the broadcast of a talk show appearance Bill Murray's character makes, the image looks slightly pixelated due to an obviously deliberate effort to recreate the aesthetic of Japanese television, but this is the only time we see so much as a hint of what looks like compression artefacting. Film to video artefacts were not in evidence. Maybe a handful of film artefacts appear in the film, but one would have to really be looking hard for them to really notice.

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. Interestingly, these subtitles also give us the unheard other end of phone conversations. They are mostly accurate to the spoken word and give good cues. The font is a little large for my taste, but the subtitles are very good otherwise.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Two soundtracks are offered with this disc. The first, and default, is the original English/Japanese dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio with 5.1 channels. The second is a French dub in DTS with 5.1 channels. Lamenting the absence of any commentary, I listened to the English soundtrack.

     The dialogue is basically in two parts. I will not comment on the substantial portion that is in Japanese other than to say it seems to be well separated from the music and sound effects. If anyone who speaks Japanese would like to comment on the intelligibility of this part of the dialogue, I welcome their input. The English portion of the dialogue is generally very clear and easy to understand, with exchanges between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in particular having the clarity that their importance to the story demands. No real problems with audio sync were noted.

     The music in the film consists of a score by Kevin Shields and a number of contemporary songs performed by numerous artists, including actors in the film. The score music comes and goes with little notice. No, let me qualify that. It adds a certain sense of atmosphere to the sequences it appears in, but it frequently goes a little too far in the direction of subtlety. Some of the performances of the contemporary songs, however, especially midway through the film in the karaoke sequence, set a sense of the absurdity and comedy on offer. Bill Murray's performance of More Than This, a Bryan Ferry song I heard frequently when I was a boy, is funny for all of both the right and wrong reasons.

     The surround channels are used sparingly for moments like walks around Tokyo, the aforementioned karaoke sequence, or other such moments when there is a mixture of sounds from multiple sources. The majority of the film is, however, very focused upon the front channels. This is hardly surprising, given how dialogue-focused the entire film is. The subwoofer is also used sparingly, only really coming to noticeable life during parts of the karaoke sequence. The infrequency of use obviously makes it stand out a bit, but it is integrated well with the rest of the soundtrack otherwise.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     The menu is animated and features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. It follows the usual Universal aesthetic, with a uniform selection of options at the left side and a video window of excerpts from the film in the centre.

Deleted Scenes

     Ten minutes and thirty-five seconds of footage that was deemed unworthy of inclusion in the finished cut of the film. It is presented in windowboxed 1.78:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Thankfully, it is chaptered, as there is four minutes of Anna Faris speaking at the press conference. I can only remember a couple of other films with Anna Faris in them, and she came off well in those. But in Lost In Translation, Sofia Coppola's opinion of the person her character represents comes off about as subtly as a concrete block from a trebuchet. Needless to say, none of these excerpts add anything to the film.

Featurette - A Conversation With Bill Murray And Sofia Coppola

     Nine and a half minutes of seriously windowboxed 1.78:1 footage with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Provides a small insight into the process both participants went through on the film.

Featurette - "Lost" On Location

     Twenty-nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds of the crew documenting the filmmaking process. 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Matthew's Best Hit TV

     Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this is all of the footage that was shot for Bill Murray's character's appearance on a talk show that we see slightly over halfway through the film. All I can say is that I wonder what on Earth Japanese people think when they see television shows like this.

Music Video - Kevin Shields: City Girl

     Presented in a windowboxed aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with DTS 2.0 audio, I am trying to remember for the life of me hearing this song in the film. After hearing the song out of context, I think I can say I am glad I do not remember it otherwise. Calling this song terrible is like calling dog droppings mildly unpleasant to have any contact with.

Theatrical Trailer

     Again, heavily windowboxed at 1.78:1 with DTS 2.0 audio. At two minutes and sixteen seconds, it does not give away a great deal, especially since most of what is in the film is highly dependent on context.

Featurette - On The Set Of Sofia Coppola's Somewhere

     Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that actually uses the whole video window with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this three minute and thirty-four second featurette is basically an electronic press kit, but stirs my curiosity.

Trailer - Somewhere

     One minute and fifty-four seconds of 1.85:1 video (using the whole window again, thank stars) and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Again, if you enjoyed Lost In Translation but were put off by Marie Antoinette (like myself), this trailer may at least convince you to try a rental.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    So far as I could discern from High-Def Digest's review, the two discs appear to be identical. The review mentions a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, but does not specify what language it is in. On this basis, recommending one disc over the other would be foolish. Ultimately, the decision as to which disc presents the best value for money (and I got this one rather cheaply) rests with the purchaser.

    Edited to add, February 29, 2012: Further queries and looks at screen captures on Blu-ray.com suggest that the Region A disc may have been DNRed to an extent that some find objectionable. Given the levels of noise evident in nighttime shots on the local disc, it is possible that the two transfers differ, but several factors in the captures on offer make a definitive comparison difficult. Given that the quality on the local disc is quite good, I am still leaning toward calling this one even.

Summary

     The best films are sometimes the most difficult to summarise or describe to those unfamiliar with the participants' work. Lost In Translation is one such film. I react to it a good deal more favourably than was the case after the first viewing, but I remain unconvinced that it really is a great film in the sense that some describe it as. Human drama, like all genres, works best when one gets right to the point, and Lost In Translation frequently shows a problem with doing that. (As a point of comparison, The Squid And The Whale is about twenty minutes shorter and in spite of some content I found very unpleasant for reasons I will not get into here, was far more enjoyable to watch largely because of that length difference.)

     The video transfer is excellent, with Tokyo in particular making it clear that it is the high definition city. The audio transfer is good. Although the surrounds and subwoofer only get real use for a small fraction of the running time, the content really demands vocal clarity, and this transfer delivers.

     The extras are moderate in number, and reflect the film in that they could have lost a substantial amount of their content without anyone missing a thing.

     And while we are on the subject, Universal, can we please quit it with the abuse of the word "perfect" in your product blurbs? You are creating expectations. Those in the minds of people who know nothing about the capture and transfer of images will be all over the place, and those who do know things about same will have expectations you can never possibly live up to. It is a true lose-lose proposition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, February 20, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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