at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Last Life in the Universe (เรื่องรัก น้อยนิด มหาศาล)

Last life in the universe image
Wednesday, 10 March
6:30 p.m. – Korean Studies Auditorium

Thailand, 2003 (112 min)
Thai, Japanese, English with English subtitles
Dir: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Sinitta Boonyasak, Laila Boonyasak

Kenji (Asano Tadanobu), a young Japanese living in Bangkok, is no ordinary man. He’s a neat freak, whose obsessive compulsive traits are revealed in his book-filled apartment, from the color-coordinated stacks of socks in his closet to the neat row of clean plates drying by the spotless kitchen sink.

His big kick though, is suicide, which is how you first meet him, hanging by his neck from a noose. It’s only a possible reality, as is most of what happens in this darkly surreal romantic comedy.

And as more is revealed, a small cast of progressively sleazier characters are paraded by for the audience’s enjoyment. There’s a Thai gangster ex-boyfriend who’s overwhelming, but a trio of yakuza (think Three Stooges) steals the show.

The action is brief and tragic — as is all the action in this film. There’s a little bit of gunplay — sudden and violent, yet so subtle, you wonder if you’re dreaming.

A chain of events brings Kenji together with Noi (Sinitta Boonyasak), and it’s here that Kenji discovers that Noi is everything that he isn’t. There are mounds of dirty dishes everywhere. Books and magazines are strewn all over. The goldfish is floating dead, upside down in the aquarium. She’s a slob, too, in contrast to Kenji’s button-down appearance. She’s also a pothead..

The mess is captured with moody realism by cinematographer Christopher Doyle, in much the same manner he brought a smouldering feel to Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. Even the flotsam and jetsam washing up at the beach evokes some emotions.

Just as Kenji is out of the ordinary, so is the film. For a Thai film, there’s hardly any Thai spoken. Most of the dialogue is in Japanese, and Kenji and Koi converse in English.

Highlights include an appearance by Riki Takeuchi, as Kenji’s brother, as well as director Takeshi Miike, as the leader of a Three Stooges-like trio of gunmen. Takeshi’s and Asano’s collaboration, Ichii the Killer, is referenced in a poster hanging up at the Japan Culture Center. Wise Kwai calls it one of his top ten fave Thai films of the last decade!
-Wise Kwai @

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