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Translating 'Translation'

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Bill Murray might be big in Japan, but everyone loves his starring role in Lost in Translation.

Thanks to the sound legal decision of New York City Judge Mukasey to repeal the ban on screeners put into effect by the Motion Picture Association of America, Focus Features has already launched a massive mailing of DVD screeners of Sofia Coppola's art house favorite, Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

Fans of the film in the unfortunate position of not being on Focus' holiday mailing list can still enjoy an insider's relationship with the film by contacting the Emperor Norton Web site ( and purchasing one of the limited editions of a 48-page Lost in Translation photo journal. The small, stylish book contains still images from the film, along with select narrative snippets from the screenplay, capturing the intimacy of the story far better than any DVD screener.

Bob (Murray) and Charlotte (Johansson) are the focus of these frozen moments. In an image set during one of Tokyo's dark neon nights, soft lights cast shadows on a billboard of Bob shilling whiskey. He is always heads (or storeys in the case of the ads) above those around him.

Charlotte is the heart on the verge of quickening. When she shares the frame with Bob, like at the karaoke bar with her head on his shoulder and her eyes closed, the image becomes a picture-perfect translation stripped of words and actions but pregnant with romantic intention.

At the book's end, there's a bit of a visual joke. The back of the journal features a glossy shot of Charlotte's pantied butt. But, of course, that was how the film began.

This slim volume speaks with more poignancy than most major studio films can compress into a four-fold gate, multi-disc DVD package of extra commentary, alternate endings and technical explanations of needless CGI. Approximately 2,000 copies of the journal have been specially packaged along with the Lost in Translation soundtrack featuring new music from Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine and a new track from the French pop group Air.

The gem on the soundtrack is Murray's version of Roxy Music's "More Than This." Coppola and Emperor Norton are here to prove that less is most definitely more. Just maybe a few other studios and filmmakers will catch on.

Bill Murray might be big in Japan, but everyone loves his starring role in Lost in Translation.

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