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Issue 37 - Tokyo calling

Whisky Magazine Issue 37
February 2004


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Tokyo calling

New Hollywood blockbuster Lost In Translation gives whisky a status that it has rarely enjoyed in film before. Dominic Roskrow reports.

It's being hailed as fledgling director Sofia Coppola's coming of age. Critics have favourably described it as Tokyo's answer to Brief Encounter. There are whisperings that actor Bill Murray's role will get him an Oscar nomination.

Even the soundtrack – the first significant work by independent icon and former My Bloody Valentine front man Kevin Shields for more than 10 years – has had the media reaching for superlatives.

But just seconds in to Lost In Translation you are left in no doubt that this is first and foremost a whisky film. Or at least half of it is.

From the opening images of Bill Murray in a Japanese taxi looking ruefully at images of himself on billboards through to the reception from Suntory representatives who meet him when he arrives at his Tokyo hotel, whisky features large.

And not whisky in the recognisable American movie sense we've grown accustomed to; as a symbol of white trash rebellion and non conformity, or as the essential accompaniment to some loser's descent from acceptable society to the gutter.

No, this is whisky Japanese-style; as a status symbol representing sophistication and class, as the drink of choice in the best hotels, as the natural companion for anyone nursing a drink alone when lost in the vacuum that is international business travel.

For those of us who care about such things (and admittedly there aren't many of us and we're probably a bit sad) Lost In Translation is an important film because it gives whisky a respectabili...

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