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Case Number 11724: Small Claims Court

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Lost By Dead

Pathfinder // 2002 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 20th, 2007

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All Rise...

Sometimes Judge David Johnson just has no @#$%-ing clue what's going on in a movie.

The Charge

Disclaimer: I apologize to the filmmakers if I missed out on your edgy vision but my head hurts

The Case

I'm not going to mince words: this film is trippy. And not in that so-surreal-it's-kind-of-cool way, but more in the irritating-hard-to-follow-borderline-pretentious-I-want-to-take-a-pistol-air-rivet-gun-to-my-skull way.

Lost by Dead is a Japanese film, shot entirely in black and white. It tells the story of a musician named Akira who is ravaged by guilt over the death of his girlfriend, a fate he played a role in. On the periphery are Akira's band-mates hoping to wean their front man off his despair in time for their Big Gig, Akira's long-suffering-in-love lady friend who worries about her beloved's mental health, some street punk with Lisa Simpson hair and a ruthless Yakuza bastard. All these elements in Akira's life crash together during the final, violent, wacko scene and you'll likely be left popping Ibuprofen.

Akira bounces from crisis to crisis in a psychological shambles over the course of the 85-minute runtime, with each shady encounter growing more and more violent. He finds himself enveloped in drugs and in his haze frequently gets into bloodier and bloodier fracases. Eventually the people that care about him get sucked into his path of self-destruction and, well, needless to say it's not all puppy dogs and lollipops.

I get what director Masato Tsujioka (who also wrote, edited and produced) was going for: a harrowing depiction of a man's downward spiral. And I'll give him that much, it was harrowing. Akira gets royally @#$%-ed up, both from his rampant drug abuse and the brutal fights he by far gets the worst of. So in that respect, mission accomplished Mr. Tsujioka, you've successfully crafted a picture of guilt-fueled self-immolation.

And as cheerful as that sounds, the brain-stabbingly sensory overload-a-riffic presentation that Tsujioka injects in his story pretty much derails the entire experience. The editing is frenetic and distracting, there are some bizarre meta-narrative interludes (reminded me of a Greek chorus strung out on PCP) strewn throughout and the screaming. Oh, the screaming. It seems like everyone in this film bellows out the most obnoxious guttural sounds known to humankind. I hate to betray my ignorance, but, sorry, I have no idea what all the screaming means.

The true deal-breaker, however, is the godforsaken video quality. Slapped with a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, the film looks horrible. The black and white picture is soft as it is, but when you add in the unacceptable level of grain in most of the scenes, you're looking at a broken DVD. The grain becomes so impressive that some scenes—most of which occur in the dark—are nigh-opaque. I could suck down a confusing mélange of images of and sounds and stylistic quirks, but the abysmal transfer is a non-starter.

If you're still intrigued, here's the rest of the skinny: the 2.0 stereo Japanese track is supplemented by English subtitles and the only extra of note is a selection of interviews with the cast and crew.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 40

Perp Profile

Studio: Pathfinder
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
• English
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Cult
• Drama
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• Cast and Crew Interviews
• Director's Biography
• Trailers


• None

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