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Brief Interview with Sofia Coppola

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By Bill Desowitz
Lost in Translation, the deadpan romantic comedy written and directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill Murray, was shot on location in Tokyo with 90 percent of the crew consisting of non-English-speaking Japanese filmmakers. They were on a tight schedule: 27 days/six days a week. In addition to language barriers, there were certain protocols. When filming at the shabu-shabu restaurant, for instance, they were permitted to shoot only until 4 p.m. When the crew went 15 minutes over, the owner pulled the lights out because he felt they “disrespected” him. Lost, Coppola’s second film (her first was The Virgin Suicides), was inspired by her own impressions of Tokyo. She turned to cinematographer Lance Acord, who not only shot her short Lick the Star but also husband Spike Jonze’s Adaptation and Being John Malkovich.

Below the Line: You’re obviously comfortable working with Lance. What did he provide?
Sofia Coppola: I had been friends with Lance for a while and he had also been to Tokyo. So he really knew that world where we were shooting. He was real enthusiastic about doing this. He’s real quick and up for anything. He’d say, “Look over there – let’s go shoot on that roof.”
BTL: Like adjusting an interior scene to an exterior scene when it started to rain at the intersection with elephants and dinosaurs? Just get up and go?
Coppola: Yeah, I wanted the informality of running around and taking snapshots. My memories of Tokyo are like snapshots. We wanted to be quick and non-invasive.
BTL: It has very little lighting—very naturalistic.
Coppola: We had to keep moving so we wouldn’t be stopped—to get those shots it was just me and Lance and [a few others].
BTL: In terms of the look, you wanted it to be romantic. So that’s why you used high-speed Kodak stock instead of DV?
Coppola: Yeah, you can do that with film. I wanted to get that snapshot feel… a little bit of a distance, the nostalgic and romantic feeling of the past.

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