Note: the following is an interpretation of the movie, of my own, and is simply opinion. YMMV
Lost in Translation spoke to me in a way that normally, commercial cinema cannot, even with the best of intentions, writers, and directors. I sat through 15 minutes of commercials and previews, and the studio card came up. I had never heard of 'Focus Films' before.
Nor did I expect the subject of the very first shot to be as revealing. I knew I'd like the movie from that shot, because it's exactly the opposite of what the majority of the culture looks for when they watch an R-rated movie that contains an attractive female lead that shows a lot of skin. About 60% of the movie has Scarlett Johansson wearing a sweater and underwear, her (very nice) legs either up against her chest, in a sitting fetal position, or out in front of her. Most of the audience (and admittedly, myself at points) were wondering when the rest of the clothing would come off, most likely, but I was surprised that it didn't.
Lost in Translation was not about the characters the camera follows. This wasn't a movie about two Americans in Tokyo, wandering around aimlessly, and finding each other. This movie (as I saw it) was a perspective on truth. It focuses on the characters' relationships and reactions more than the characters themselves. The lack of dialogue and physical action (and nudity) leaves a lot of room for reflection on life itself. Why does marriage become a chore, and a bother, after some time? No doubt magic exists between two people, especially early on in a relationship. I felt that magic myself in the theatre, as my girlfriend was lying in my lap (thanks to the stadium theatre seats' movable armrests ^_^ ). Our day had been fairly lackluster, we'd had a small fight, and there was some tension in things, not to mention she was having stabbing pains in her side. We entered the theater tense, and left relaxed and still very much in love.
A good amount of the humor in this film was derived from the differences in American and Japanese culture. Bob Harris, when not in his hotel room mugging at bad television, is followed by a gaggle of chattering Japanese people he can't understand, or speak to, who seem empty to him. They are no doubt sincere in their actions, and well-meaning, but the meaning is lost in the translation of the culture to Bob's American eyes. I'm no expert in Japanese culture, so I will leave it to others to draw comparisons between the two, but I can relate to Bob's feeling of being alone in a crowd of people. The best way I can think of to experience it, I would say, comes from my own personal experience. I live in a middle-class section of my city, a pseudo-suburb, where the majority of the residents are white, and the streets are clean and maintainted, and the houses are upkept and neat. Before I obtained a driver's license, I took the bus everywhere I went. If I went downtown, especially around the time school let out, I was often the only white person on the bus, including the driver. I felt invisible. Not ignored, or discriminated, just… alone. I'm not racist in any way, and actually did talk to some of the people I met, but the cultural difference is there, and the truth is unavoidable.
This movie wasn't making fun of Japanese culture. It was making a point that I think a lot of us miss in life. Often times, it's not anything we as humans DO, or don't do, that separate and conflict in this world. Often, it's human nature. The cultural differences that separate white people from black people are not completely concrete, and are often stereotypical, and this doesn't explain anything completely, but the two have a tendency to associate and partner with their own race, and propagate in the same general area. This is part of the reason you can call a certain neighborhood in your city a 'white' or 'black' neighborhood. Note that this doesn't make any allusion to discrimination or wealth, just socialogical and natural differences.
Just as it's natural for humans to live and associate semi-exclusively with those they identify with, it's also natural for relationships to lose their magic. Living with the same person for years upon years becomes more of a test after time, and our culture's focus on the exterior qualities rather than intangible only makes it harder as some relationships are built on looks rather than any serious bond between personalities. Our society tends to be ashamed of these facts, however, and it's a problem to couples that they get tired of each other. Admittedly, I have limited experience (due to age and lack of married status) in these matters as well, but I know that the night my girlfriend and I attended the showing of Lost in Translation, we entered together, exhausted of each others' shortcomings. We exited the theater with a little more understanding of why we were together, and how little our human shortcomings really matter, compared to what brought us together.
Not that I'm saying it all works out in the end. That's another fact that our society needs to understand, and stop obsessing over. We're afraid to be unhappy. The quote alluding to what doesn't kill us making us stronger has more meaning than we'd like to think. Suffering does make us stronger, in ways. Being alone shows Bob what matters in life, beyond all material wealth, beyond the lights and glamour of his trip to Japan, most likely, when he leaves, he'll be thinking of Charlotte, and maybe he'll be thinking of his wife, and what brought them together all those years ago.
That's what this movie really said to me. Find the beauty in your life, be it small or enormous. It's there, and sometimes, it's exactly what you need to see a point to the trudge through life.