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Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Wong Kar-wai movie that inspired Sofia Coppola

While several movies to have been released under the name Sofia Coppola, including The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette and Somewhere, have rightfully drawn widespread critical acclaim, it’s hard to look beyond her masterpiece film Lost in Translation, released in 2003, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

Coppola’s second movie is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece, a dreamlike exploration of loneliness and existential boredom under the blinding lights of Toyko. Murray’s portrayal of Bob Harris, a fading American movie star in the throes of a midlife crisis, was only matched in excellence by Johansson, who played Charlotte, a recent college graduate equally lost and looking for life’s purpose.

The two characters form a friendship that just about always teeters on romance despite their stark age difference. Coppola delivers a stunning narrative that dives headfirst into the human disconnection that permeates the lives of so many in our increasingly isolated modern societies.

With an Asian metropolitan hub as the backdrop for the film’s action, it’s no wonder that Coppola had been inspired by one of Asia’s greatest-ever filmmakers, Wong Kar-wai. Many of Wong’s movies examine the precise capitalism-induced loneliness that Lost in Translation also looked to interrogate, but of them all, it’s clear that his 2000 romance In the Mood for Love had the biggest influence.

Tony Leung plays a married man who slowly falls for a married woman, played by Maggie Cheung, when their respective spouses have an affair. Like Lost in Translation, Wong’s film looks into the kind of emotions that we often repress out of necessity to our commitments, while the aesthetics of both works also run parallel.

It’s clear Coppola had Wong in mind when she made Lost in Translation, as when she accepted the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ for the film, she personally pointed out her respect for her fellow director and his influence on her work. Stunning cinematography by Christopher Doyle (Wong) and Lance Acord (Coppola) goes someway to making each respective director’s films the masterpieces that they undoubtedly are.

Coppola’s vision of Tokyo, blindingly illuminated by advertisements, is matched by Wong’s depiction of Hong Kong, and both settings breathe with a vibrancy and life that almost makes them characters in their own right. But it’s the insight into brief connections with our fellow human beings in the midst of heartbreak and loneliness through which both films marry one another in a union of beautiful artistry.

Check out the trailer for In the Mood for Love and Lost in Translation below to see the connection.

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