Screened as part of NZIFF 2004
A cool comedy of cultural difference, Last Life in the Universe takes surreal pleasure in putting an uptight young Japanese man at the mercy of a chaotic young Thai woman. Japanese star Asano Tadanobu plays Kenji, a librarian in the Japan Foundation’s Bangkok cultural centre. It’s not giving away too much to say that his pristine white shirt conceals a spectacular yakuza tattoo and that library work marks a very recent career change for young Kenji. A sly, made-in-Thailand send-up of a Japanese hero, he fantasises about the aesthetically perfect suicide, in the pursuit of which he meets Thai bar-girl, Noi. Devastated by the death of her sister in a traffic accident, she’s determined to pull herself together in time to emigrate to Japan next week. Kenji takes up temporary residence at Noi’s rambling rural house, where the pair make tentative stabs at communication and cohabitation. Their almost-romance is a laid-back affair of deadpan humour, medium level magic realism, Japanese gangster gags and luscious cinematography by Chris Doyle.
“A suicide note that turns into a love letter, and a battle between Japanese fastidiousness and Thai funk that could teach Lost in Translation a few lessons about portraying cultural gaps. Aided immeasurably by Small Room’s sublime minimalist score, Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s fourth movie starts out as mordant and morbid as a Billy Wilder one, and ends in a state of grace, being sure to make time to get high along the way.” — Johnny Ray Huston, San Francisco Bay Guardian