There’s a painfully funny moment near the beginning of Lost in Translation in which ageing movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) poses for photographs while advertising Suntory Whisky in Japan. Harris is in Tokyo to promote the brand in one of those advertising campaigns that Hollywood stars agree to on the strict condition that they’ll never be seen outside of Asia. As he sits, dressed in a tuxedo and holding aloft a whisky glass, which he

swirls with the air of a connoisseur, he listens as one of the photographers shouts a series of detailed instructions to him in Japanese. Mystified, Harris looks at the on-set translator for guidance. The English instructions amount to just three words: ‘Turn to camera’. Hilariously, Murray’s face registers the hopeless resignation of a man who’s trapped in a Japanese bastardisation of an earlier Murray classic, Groundhog Day, destined never to

understand the insanity of a universe that’s clearly

conspiring against him.

Lost in Translation, the sophomore effort from writer-director Sofia Coppola is, as its title suggests, a film about the kind of cross-cultural comedy that arises from being a stranger in a strange land. Perplexed by Japan’s otherness and trapped by his cultural preconceptions into spending all his time cooped up in the hotel’s ersatz American bar, Harris is a man in desperate need of a lesson in how to enjoy Tokyo’s charms. What he gets instead is a romantic liaison with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a fellow American traveller half his age, who’s been left on her own in the big city by her fame-obsessed husband (Giovanni Ribisi). Hesitant, awkward and full of


Contemplation, generosity and humanity

Made within the Japanese commercial mainstream. this is the film that introduced Western audiences to the artistry of Yasujiro Ozu. despite the fact that the director's career had already spanned nearly three decades. Re- released in a new print. this low-key domestic drama unfolds with calm assurance. Character here takes precedence over plotting. as an elderly couple Shukishi (Chishu Ryu) and Tomi (Chiyeko Higashiyama) leave their provincial home to visit their two married children in post— war Tokyo. But their offspring are too busy with their lives to

look after them properly and send them to a noisy spa resort. Realising they are a burden. mother and father return home. with only their widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara) having shown them any real compassion.

An unexpected bereavement. however. reunites the disparate family members.

On one level Tokyo Story is culturally specific in that it depicts changes in middle- class Japanese life in the years following the Second World War. But more significantly it's a wonderfully universal tale about ageing and the gulf between the generations. which acknowledges the passing of time and life's inevitable disappointments.

Also this film. more than any of his others. highlights Ozu's discreet mastery of the cinematic craft: the low-level camera positions. the use of medium shots of faces. the frames within frames. the contrast between the dignified settings and the underlying emotions. the punctuating images of trains. boats. chimneys and washing lines. This beautifully restrained style allows us to savour this film's undimmed qualities of contemplation, generosity and humanity. (Tom Dawson)

I Selected release from Fri 76 Jan.

l-lesitant, awkward and full of ripe comic potential

ripe comic potential, the resulting affair is one of into words is moving and evocative. the most tender screen relationships in years. Filming the neon-lit streets of Tokyo with the clown cut adrift in a world that makes no sense to same dreamlike lyricism that characterised her him, the comedian is on top form. His encounter first film, The Virgin Suicides, Coppola sets up with a Japanese call girl and her demands that he these two unlikely lovers with a gently poignant touch, flitting between humour and heartache with deft ease. No apologist for the succession of Rat Pack impersonations are male menopause, she delivers a romance that’s less ‘will they-won’t they?’ than ‘please don’t let them’, building on both characters’ jet-lagged disorientation to create a languorously paced, meandering love story in which the problems of translating emotions

It’s certainly Murray’s film. Playing the put upon

‘Iip’ (‘lick’) her stockings, his battles with gymnasium equipment and his rapid-fire

priceless stuff. Ultimately, though, it’s the tears of this love-struck clown that ring so true, making Lost in Translation a beautifully fragile, tenderly moving film that deserves to be cherished. (Jamie Russell)

I Selected release from Fri 9 Jan.


Once you've realised that John Grisham's stories are all abOut courtroom theatrics. most people feel there's little more to know about them. Yet Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of The Rainmaker revealed a darker context to Grisham's ‘little man against the world' legal dramas. Journeyman director Gary Fleder pulls off a similar feat here. aided by a brisk script that ably condenses the labyrinthine machinations of what is arguably Grisham's most interesting work The Runaway Jury.

Jury man Nicholas Easter (John Cusack). together with his accomplice Marlee (Rachel Weis7) is working a scam to secretly hold a jury to ransom in a multi- million dollar trial. With the jury led (in a neat piece of symbolism). by a blind man, and both the prosecution (Dustin Hoffman) and defence (Gene Hackman) in thrall to his power. Easter soon sets about manipulating his fellow jurors to his own ends.

It's a cracking good yarn. making up for initially unsympathetic characters with considerable courtioom fireworks. with Cusack's preppy charm an agreeable centre. and ex-room-mates Hoffman and Hackman cast according to their breakthrough roles in The Graduate and The French Connection. as idealist and Cynic respectively. Disappointingly, after the box-office failure of anti-smoking drama The Insider. the subject of the lawsuit has been changed from cigarettes to gun control; the narrative twists play just as well. but it's a shame that Fleder's film. unlike Grisham's heroes. should shy away from taking on the big boys. even if he does take on their big toys. (Eddie Harrison)

I General release from Fri 7 6 Jan.

From cigarettes to gun control

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