by Marty Demarest

If the main reason to own a film on DVD is to re-watch it, you should go out and buy Lost in Translation right now. Writer/director Sofia Coppola has crafted a beautiful film that changes every time you see it. And she's fortunate to have a leading actor who can effortlessly accommodate. Here are five reasons to own or rent Lost in Translation (again and again).

1. Bill Murray is better than he's ever been. Playing an actor who's in Tokyo to tape a whiskey commercial, he's funny as hell, whether he's reacting to the spastic host of a Japanese talk show, or trapped on his hotel's electric exercise equipment. And his encounter with a high-class prostitute, who veers radically between submitting to him, commanding him, and negotiating with him, is comedy of a higher order. Murray's Saturday Night Live training allows him to move between slapstick and verbal comedy without losing a beat or his character.

2. Bill Murray is better than he's ever been. With his crumbling face, he's quietly tragic as an aging man whose life lacks meaning. When we first encounter him, he's waking up, looking at the lights of Tokyo pass by his car. This is a man who's so out of touch with his life that waking feels like dreaming.

3. Bill Murray is better than he's ever been. Like many middle-aged men, there's a sense that his mileage has given him some sweetness. It's not just his puppy-dog eyes and catch-you-off-guard smile; when he sings Brian Ferry's "More Than This" in a karaoke bar, he's heartbreaking.

4. Bill Murray is better than he's ever been. As the romantic interest of Scarlett Johansson, playing a smart, bored young woman decades younger than Murray, he's soulful. Murray fills his time onscreen with her searching her eyes and basking in her energy.

5. Bill Murray is better than he's ever been. If you don't want to consider the age difference between Murray and Johansson's characters as fertile soil for romance, you can read it as a beautiful, if misplaced, example of the bond between a father and a daughter. When Murray tucks Johansson into bed, after a night the two spend exploring Tokyo, he makes sure that he locks her room door behind him.

Publication date: 02/05/04

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