In one of the funniest scenes in “Lost in Translation,” aging actor Bob Harris, played by Bill Murray, is on a Tokyo film set waiting to shoot a whiskey commercial.
He’s trussed up in a tuxedo, uneasily sunk into a leather armchair, studio lights lovingly casting shadows on his face.
A director with a rocker’s dyed hair, tinted glasses and trendy jacket barks flamboyantly at Bob in Japanese. The interpreter merely throws a few scraps of English the actor’s way. It’s clear something is being, well, lost in translation.
Here’s the scene in English:
Director: Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently — say it as if you were speaking to an old friend. Just like Bogie in “Casablanca,” Here’s looking at you, kid — Suntory time.
Translator: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Harris: That’s all he said?
Translator: Yes. Turn to camera.
Harris: All right. Does he want me to turn from the right, or turn from the left?
Translator: (To director) Uh, umm. He’s ready now. He just wants to know if he’s supposed to turn from the left or turn from the right when the camera rolls. What should I tell him?
Director: What difference does it make! Makes no difference! Don’t have time for that! Got it, Bob-san? Just psych yourself up, and quick! Look straight at the camera. At the camera. And slowly ... with passion. Straight at the camera. And in your eyes there’s ... passion. Got it?
Translator: (To Harris) Right side. And with intensity. OK?
Harris: Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that.
Director: (To Bob, gesticulating wildly) Listen, listen. This isn’t just about whiskey. Understand? Imagine you’re talking to an old friend. Gently. The emotions bubble up from the bottom of your heart. And don’t forget, psych yourself up!
Translator: Like an old friend. And, into the camera.
Director: Got it? (Bob nods) You LOVE whiskey. It’s SUNTORY time. OK?
Director: (To crew) OK! We’re rolling! Ready! Action!
Harris: (Turning to the camera) For relaxing times ... make it Suntory time.
Director: CUT! Cut, Cut, Cut, Cut!! (Rushes up to Bob) You don’t seem to understand, do you? (Grabs the bottle) This is Suntory’s Hibiki. Suntory’s most expensive brand. Put more luxurious feeling into it. It’s not your everyday whiskey.
Translator: Could you do it slower and ...
Director: Give it everything you’ve got!
Translator: More intensity.
Director: (To Bob) Suntory time ... (To crew) We’re rolling! Ready! Action!
Harris: For relaxing times ... Make it Suntory time.
Director: CUT! Cut, Cut, Cut! I’m begging you, begging you ...
(Bob’s Suntory smile fades into annoyance)