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The Lost in Translation Soundtrack Makes me Pine for Every Stranger I Was Too Scared to Give my Number To

Coppola's choice of songs will turn anyone into an emotional sap capable of actual feelings.

by Aurora Mitchell
Jul 23 2014, 1:45pm

Lost In Translation is a cult classic and not just because it's the first in a line of films where we get to see a shot of Scarlett Johansson's ass. To some it's just a quiet film filled with a lot of eye-fucking from Scar and co-star Bill Murray, but for Pinterest-fixated, Perks of a Wallflower-reading teens it's become a religion. In the 11 years since it was released, so much romantic subtext has been laden on the film that director Sofia Coppola's insistence of it being "just a friendship" seems about as plausible as A$AP and Kathy Griffin insisting that honestly there's literally no sexual tension between them at all.

The film is essentially a vehicle for Bill and Scarlett to wander aimlessly around Japan's capital, having mid and quarter-life crises that they try to bury by filling their days with expensive liquor and parties. That's all fine until they start bonding over a self-help tape about finding life's true purpose which, according to some people, isn't actually just expensive liquor and parties. Who knew? The film is about lost connections and new connections and it's refreshing because its main female protagonist hasn't been written with the intention of fluttering her eyelashes until someone walks up to her at the bar—she's the one who's sending whiskey over the table.

My own introduction to Lost In Translation was a mixed one. Between held shots of distant longing and ScarJo throwing shade at her pretentious photographer husband, it seemed like nothing more than an elaborate tourist advert for Tokyo with some recognisable faces chucked in. By my second viewing though, I found myself sipping an Old Fashioned, browsing Japan Airlines, and working out the nearest spot to cruise for a will we/won't we male cougar.

Part of me was rooting for Murray and ScarJo to stop fucking around and actually fuck, but I also realized that the soundtrack—comprising mostly of French pop, shoegaze and ambient electronica—was a dream. Despite all the accolades and awards the film has won, the soundtrack recieved nothing as it wasn't an original score. Yet, in a film known for its silence, the music often explains as much as the dialogue does.

For a start, we're not only given insight into the love lives of these miserable, lost characters but also Coppola's. ScarJo's neglecting douchebag husband is a characterization of her ex Spike Jonze, whereas now Coppola is married to Thomas Mars whose band Phoenix gave "Too Young" for the playful party scene that ends in a bartender getting overly enthusiastic with a BB-gun. The song is also a pretty literal reminder that, even though you've totally got lost in the sexual frisson between the two, fucking someone your dad's age is kind of grim.

For cringe points, though, that part is totally trumped by the strip club scene where Murray's trying super hard not to appear aroused by the oiled-up, writhing bodies straddling poles in time to Peaches' "Fuck The Pain Away." These awkward moments, alongside the music from shoegaze behemoths My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain make the soundtrack memorable.

The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey"—which plays as Johansson strides into a crowded street at Bill Murray stares at her from a cab window, wondering why he got with a random woman instead of her—will make you wish you weren't home alone at 2AM, licking the last remaining drops from a whiskey bottle after spending two months rent on flights when you don't even like Japanese food. The same goes for My Bloody Valentines "Sometimes," a track that plays as Scarlett lies sleepily on Murray's shoulder after he sings Roxy Music's "More Than This" at her in a karaoke booth, during which she looks both totally down for it and totally confused. Both songs are enough to turn anyone into an emotional sap capable of actual feelings.

More than anything though, Lost In Translation's soundtrack makes you think of the times you fell deeply and instantly in love with someone on public transport, but never had the balls to give them your number. The sparse chimes of Squarepusher's "Tommib" as she stares out from her hotel room windowsill onto the entirety of Tokyo are enough to send you to some dark, dark places.

The Lost In Translation OST began Coppola's knack for soundtracks you want to keep in your record collection. It's clever, emotive and intensifies the harsh moments of two lost souls' friendship as much as it softens the parts in between. Lost in Translation may have won the Oscar for its screenplay, but its soundtrack will remain in the hearts of lost souls forever.

Aurora is on Twitter, follow her — @auroramitch

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My Bloody Valentine
Sofia Coppola
Jesus And Mary Chain
bill murray
My Favorite Soundtrack
Lost in Translation