Last Life in the Universe

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Rating: R

Starring:
Tadanobu Asano as Kenji
Sinitta Boonyasak as Noi
Laila Boonyasak as Nid
Yutaka Matsushige as Yukio
Riki Takeuchi as Takashi
Takashi Miike as Yakuza
Yoji Tanaka as Yakuza
Sakichi Satô as Yakuza
Thiti Rhumorn as Jon
Junko Nakazawa as Librarian

Special Features:
Commentary track with Cinematographer Christopher Doyle
Interviews with cast and crew
Behind-the-Scenes footage
Storyboards and original drawings by Christopher Doyle
Theatrical trailer
Previews
Weblinks

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Thai and Japanese with English Subtitles
Running Time: 104 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 2003. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Last Life in the Universe marks the emergence of Pen-ek Ratanaruang as a world class filmmaker and brings him together with Japanese superstar Asano Tadanobu (Zatoichi, Bright Future) and legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle (2046, In the Mood for Love, Rabbit Proof Fence). Together they spin the tale of Kenji, a mysterious librarian who has hidden himself away from society and seems bent on suicide. That is, until he meets Noi, a beautiful young woman who begins to seduce him back to life. If only she wasn’t leaving Thailand for Osaka at the end of the weekend. Last Life in the Universe is a poetic tale about the strange way fate has of bringing people together just as their worlds seem on the verge of falling apart.”

Last Life in the Universe is rated R for some violence, language, and sexuality/nudity.

The Movie:
Last Life in the Universe is an interesting tale of opposites attracting. Brought together by violent tragedies, Kenji and Noi are two lost souls that find some comfort in each other despite their dramatic differences. Kenji is a suicidal, quiet, neat freak, anal retentive, Japanese librarian. Noi is a sloppy, carefree Thai call girl. Each fills a crucial role in the others life just when they need it most.

The acting in the film is pretty good. Tadanobu Asano is excellent as Kenji. He does a good job of portraying the hopeless nature of Kenji. It’s interesting to see him fantasize about suicide only to be repeatedly distracted by minor things like a phone ringing, a door knock, or other such stuff that a person really about to kill themselves wouldn’t care about. It’s also funny to see him clean up after the slovenly Noi. She is well played by Sinitta Boonyasak. She’s pretty and spirited in the role. She also impressively plays the character in a mix of Thai, Japanese, and English. (Though the switch between the languages can turn your head around.)

I’ve seen this movie compared to Lost in Translation and to some degree that’s accurate. Both films feature lost and hopeless characters finding new reason to live. But I also found them comparable because I didn’t get much out of either one. My idea of entertainment isn’t watching characters brood for an hour and a half and that’s pretty much what this is. Last Life in the Universe had a few twists and turns that kept things interesting, but not enough to really engage me and keep me interested.

If you’re into foreign films, character dramas, or Lost in Translation, then I think Last Last Life in the Universe will appeal to you. It’s exotic, moody, and dark. But it certainly isn’t for mainstream audiences, so you’ll want to approach it with caution.

The Extras:
There are a number of bonus features that come with this DVD, but the screener copy I was sent didn’t include any of them. You’re on your own if you want to check them out.

The Bottom Line:
If you liked Lost in Translation, you’ll probably enjoy Last Life in the Universe. It’s a bit darker and edgier, but many of the core elements are similar. Mainstream audiences will probably want to pass on it, though.

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