Lost and Found

Reviewed by YTSL

That which has been deemed "the most controversial Hong Kong film of 1996" by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society contains so many elements which can (usually) be off-putting to quite a few movie viewers.  Among others:  Its main character is a young woman who is dying of leukemia; it contains some Wong Kar Wai-esque contrivances (including music videoish sequences filmed in black and white and the copious use of voiceover narration); there is an abundance of rich and beautiful people on one hand together with individuals who could be described as unfortunates on the other; plus the often annoyingly American-accented Michael Wong plays a Scottish-Chinese sailor-turned-innkeeper (who dons a kilt and plays the bagpipes in a couple of scenes) in this movie.  I will personally attest that the obviously ambitious work which sharply divided Hong Kong's professional film reviewers "into two polar extremes" did not immediately grab my fancy, let alone get a hold of my heart.

Ultimately though, I do think that this complex yet accessible, thoughtful and touching, poignant but also satisfying offering won me over to its camp of admirers (which include some male as well as female regulars on the Asian Film Discussion Forum along with the author of the Peter Grimes web site).  And it is most sincerely hoped that my statement that LOST AND FOUND has one of the most wonderful and affecting as well as "Magical Realistic" endings -- and idealistically inspirational final uttered line -- of any movie I have ever seen will not act as a spoiler for any (potential) viewer, create certain overly-high expectations, lead one to make misleading misconceptions or all of these.  Instead, the intent is to get people to give the movie a chance and for those who may find it initially annoying(ly pretentious or unappealing) to persist with it and allow it to (eventually) show and work its truly lovely magic.
A Singaporean reviewer has described this joint United Filmmakers Organization (UFO) and Golden Harvest production as having elements and being an amalgam of "Chungking Express" and (Brigitte) Lin Ching-Hsia's 1970s Taiwanese weepies.  IMHO, there is some truth to this assessment. In terms of comparisons with the former:  LOST AND FOUND is yet another enchanting movie that benefits from the presence of the immensely winning Takeshi Kaneshiro, whose character here -- whose strange name of "That Worm" is "explained" by his hailing from Mongolia! -- is (also) that of a quirky young man who embraces life and the world.  I also see this film's makers (more than by the way:  Lee Chi-Ngai directed, wrote the script and also acted as co-producer) as being entirely successful in making quite profound statements that are surficially masked as everyday observations.  Somewhat amazingly (though), this rather contemplative effort does share with the decades older, often irrationally (overly-)emotional melodramas a certain heart-tugging quality and tear jerking ability.  And while I do not see it myself, I will point out that LOST AND FOUND's lead actress, Kelly Chan, is considered by some people to physically resemble Brigitte Lin.
More than incidentally, I think that this Cantopop star (one of whose renditions in this movie won a Hong Kong Film Award for Best Original Film Song) rose immensely well to the challenge of portraying the wistful and sad but also still hope-filled young woman who is at the center of this lengthier (101 minutes) than average movie.  To be sure, she -- and the film itself -- undoubtedly benefits from having a fine group of secondary characters and actors (the performances of Cheung Tat-Ming -- as That Worm's primary assistant -- along with the little girl who played the "child prodigy" and another who plays a miracle-seeking client of That Worm's "LOST AND FOUND" investigative agency deserve mention; plus "star-spotters" should have some fun seeing Jordan Chan and Maria Cordero making cameo appearances).  The often amazing cinematography (which surely is helped by the bona fide beauty of some of the locations) and appropriate mood-affecting soundtrack (which actually features Celtic mood music, Scottish folk tunes and a Leonard Cohen song together with a catchy Cantopop number sung by Chan and Kaneshiro!) also help establish that this is a hardly run-of-the-mill effort.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is yet another of those Hong Kong movies that are both multi-genre and defy attempts to categorize it, and which too many Americans I know who would probably be impressed and moved by it have absolutely no clue exists.  This is really too bad; not least because I think that quite a few people (moviemakers and viewers) can learn from its serious and tender yet neither cornily sentimental nor disgustingly cloying romantic approach to quite a few life issues that affect us, whether or not we are Hong Kongers worried about their home territory (now) being a part of China once more.

My rating for the film:  9.0

Reviewed by Brian

For a film that I have always made an effort to avoid, I have to admit upon finally viewing it that it completely filled me up with an assortment of strong emotions from magical wonder to true sadness to thoughtful contemplation. I avoided it partly because of the actors involved Michael Wong, Kelly Chan and Takeshi Kaneshiro who are far from my favorites but primarily because of the theme of illness and death which I feared would pervade this film in a shallow manipulative way.

The fact that Kelly is possibly dying does certainly add a great deal of poignancy to many scenes, but the film in no way dwells upon it. Rather, in a way it is a celebration of the short time we all get on this earth. Kelly learns very early in the film that she has leukemia and her chances of surviving are as she announces in a job interview with her father 30%. Her illness pushes Kelly to explore the world in a different way, meet new people and try to come to some understanding about what is important in life.

The last ten minutes of the film is very powerful and almost surreal and it will leave you with a sense of sadness that is at the same time overlaid by a sense of the wonder and workings of life.

My rating for this film: 8.0