Lost & Found

March 16, 2012

Natural and fresh filmmaking from a debut director

Lost & Found (2007)

Here’s a name to write down, Nobuyuki Miyake. His debut film Lost & Found is by no means a flawless hit, but comes with bits of such fresh filmmaking that one cannot help but to be impressed.

The title refers to the lost and found office at a small train station. This office serves as connecting point for some dozen characters the film follows. All of them are lonely people who have lost something – in physical and mental sense.

Not an original premise for a film of this type, but the director’s touch to filmmaking makes Lost & Found stand out. Miyake goes for relatively minimal style. There is no major drama or sappy tragedies. Characters come alive through actors and cinematography. The winter breeze can almost be felt through the grayish, but often beautiful cinematography.

For the most time, Miyake does not try to be too clever. His characters influence on each other, but there is no catch, no Tarantino/Jeunet style clever connections. The whole movie is more about atmosphere and life going on. It’s even a somewhat a lively film, but with a quiet surface.

Shun Sugata, an actor who has been working for decades but is only now starting to get recognition (see Confessions of a Dog for a standout performance), is excellent as the film’s center. As the head of the two man lost & found office he is given quite a bit of screen time, but he never quite feels like “performing” for the audience. His character seem to be living his own life rather than reenacting an unforgettable a great story.

Here of course is the obvious turn off for more mainstream oriented audiences: Lost & Found doesn’t really tell any specific storylines worth remembering. It’s more about atmosphere and characters. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s Sketches of Kaitan City would not be an entirely bad comparison, although Miyake’s film is much smaller and perhaps slightly less dark.

Not every part of the film works though. As usual when there are so many characters, some of them come out less interesting than others. A few even make such a brief visit that one has probably forgotten about them by the time the end credits roll. Some characters also seem to exist just to make a certain point story wise or artistically. Sometimes this comes out a bit clumsy and forcedly artistic, even though most of the film is free of pretentiousness.

These problems are effectively compensated by the successful structure – Miyake plays his segments simultaneously without episodic structure – and a fitting, 75 minute running time. The film even ends with the nicest closing image in recent memory.

Lost & Found, despite its small problems, is a rewarding piece of Japanese indie cinema. Here technical skill meets natural filmmaking that lacks any attempt to be overly clever. It’s one of those films that works best when nothing much happens in it.

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