Lost In Translation

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bill Murray recently. To be honest, this is nothing new. If you’re reading this Mr Murray, lets be pals. Anyway. I was thinking: is Bill Murray a star? Is he a celebrity? Is he a cult-hero? Or is he simply Bill Fucking Murray!?

Lost In Translation screen grab
Photo credit: Focus Features (2010)

“Not all actors are stars and not all stars are celebrities” (Fremaux, 2014), but where does that leave Bill? Daniel Boorstin (1962, p. 57) suggested that a celebrity is “a person who is well-known for their well-knownness” while Richard Dyer (2012, p. 2) said that the “star phenomenon consists of everything that is publicly available about stars. A film star’s image is not just his or her films, but the promotion of those films and of the star through pin-ups, public appearances, studio hand-outs and so on…” Based on that, we can discount celebrity and edge towards star, but to me, Bill Murray is more than that. Cult-hero doesn’t seem to do him justice either. There’s so much more to being Bill Murray.

Maybe The Guardian (Shoard, 2014) has come closest to accurately pigeonholing the mighty Murray: “If God was one of us, the logic goes, he’d be Bill Murray.”

Lost In Translation screen grab
Photo credit: Focus Features (2010)

If you’re wondering what inspired this latest round of #Murraythought, the title of this post might give you a clue: Lost In Translation (2003). I watched it for about the 372nd time last week. It’s one of my favourite ever films for a variety of reasons, most notably its impeccable soundtrack and, of course, Bill Murray.

Set in Tokyo, Murray plays Bob Harris, an aging actor who’s in Japan to appear in some whisky commercials. Unlike Murray, Harris probably is best described as a star, albeit a fading star. That said, he seems uncomfortable with his fame: as highlighted when he is recognised by a couple of youthful looking, happy-go-lucky, American businessmen early on in the film.

Bob Harris strikes up an unlikely bond with Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johansson), the young wife of a celebrity photographer working in Tokyo and who is staying at the same generic Japanese hotel as Bob. Charlotte’s husband seems to spend most of his time taking photos of people who are, indeed, “well known for their well known-ness”, such as the vacuous Kelly (played by Anna Faris.) While Bob and Charlotte’s friendship develops into a relationship which straddles the platonic boundaries, their romance is very un-Hollywood. Less raw animal attraction and more a basic need for human attention and human affection.

Lost In Translation screen grab
Photo credit: Focus Features (2010)

There are a few moments in the film where things are literally lost in translation (“lip my stockings” etc), but the theme of being lost is prevalent in other aspects too. For example, Bob feels lost in his marriage, Charlotte feels lost (and alone) in her relationship with John and both of them feel lost in Tokyo. Themes of loneliness, solitude and isolation run deep throughout Lost In Translation, but with the connection that Charlotte and Bob experience, there is also a theme of companionship and furthermore, of being found.

After all, as the film’s tagline explains: “Everyone wants to be found.”


Reference List

anintshe (2010) Air – Alone In Kyoto. Available at: http://youtu.be/XUjAtYQkFm8 (Accessed: 3 December 2014).

Boorstin, D. (1962) The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events in America. 25th Anniversary edn. New York: Vintage Books.

Dyer, R, (2013) Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society. Abingdon: Routledge.

Edwards, G. (2014) Being Bill Murray. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/being-bill-murray-20141028 (Accessed: 6 January 2015).

Focus Features. (2010) Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. Available at: http://www.focusfeatures.com/lost_in_translation (Accessed/downloaded: 3 December 2014).

Focus Features. (2010) Bill Murray in Lost In Translation. Available at: http://www.focusfeatures.com/lost_in_translation (Accessed/downloaded: 3 December 2014).

Focus Features. (2010) Bill Murray stars in Lost in Translation. Available at: http://www.focusfeatures.com/lost_in_translation (Accessed/downloaded: 3 December 2014).

Fremaux, S. (2014) ‘From Stars to Celebrity – Part 1: The Star’. MED2056-N-BJ1-2014: Lights, Camera, Action: The Langauge Of Film Available at: http://eat.tees.ac.uk (Accessed: 1 December 2014).

Lost In Translation (2003) Directed by Sofia Coppola [Film]. Universal City: Focus Features.

PsychoHitsPeach (2011) Lost In Translation – Lip My Stockings (Full). Available at: http://youtu.be/hXZ6iDXgx54 (Accessed: 3 December 2014).

Salvador Amores (2010) Too Young – Lost in Translation Scene. Available at: http://youtu.be/qUw7p2OixGg (Accessed: 3 December 2014).

Shoard, C. (2014) The gospel according to Bill Murray. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/nov/20/gospel-bill-murray-new-film-st-vincent-interview (Accessed: 3 December 2014).

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