TOKYO — As befits a director whose movies chart the untidiness of Japanese family life, the office of Hirokazu Kore-eda is cluttered with piles of papers, books, photographs, videocassettes and CDs. But it’s the dozens of Frankenstein dolls perched around the room that really capture his emotional point of view.

“I love Frankenstein,” Mr. Kore-eda said, reverently. “He is just so melancholy.”

Mr. Kore-eda, 56, whose latest work, “Shoplifters,” has received an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film and has been a box office hit in Japan, specializes in stories about people who endure almost unbearable sadness.

In “Shoplifters,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May, a group of outcasts who live together as a family rescue a little girl from abusive parents and induct her into their clan of petty thievery. For a while, their ragtag clan seems more authentically connected than some families that share DNA. But — spoiler alert — ethical doubts late in the movie lead to a devastating rupture.

Mr. Kore-eda says his films represent an implicit criticism of modern Japan. They tackle themes of isolation and social invisibility, as well as the numbing of souls that can come with professional success.