Thoughts on Last Life in the Universe

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 12:37 PM By Simon

-A Japanese librarian in Bangkok (Asano Tadanobu) who constantly fantasizes about suicide and a Thai girl (Sinitta Boonyasak), very recently one sister down, retreat to her beachside bungalow for a couple days of moping before she leaves for Japan.

-Take the first half hour or so. This sequence of time-distorted misery in three acts, two parallel and one converging, jumping back and forth between Tadanobu's spiffy apartment/library, every book neatly stacked and labelled but for a collection of random volumes stacked under a noose in the hallway, the fridge only containing the six-packs his scummy yakuza brother offers while inviting himself for a couple months of hiding (he raped his boss's daughter, see), and Boonyasak's sister's place of employ, a bar where the girls wear schoolgirl uniforms, and Tadanobu's brother frequents. It's confusing and unnecessary, this device, as it never really shows any juxtaposing images of their lives or anything. Maybe a stylistic device, maybe to confuse, maybe to show their disconnected lives, maybe some bullshit like that, I don't know.

-It feels like it should be a spoiler, Tadanobu's (this isn't the character's name, I just don't feel like looking up the spelling) brother's assassination by his friend Taneka (or was it Tanada?), hired by wrong'd boss. I mean, it's the cause of the real plot, the kind of thing that would be taken care of in the first ten minutes of any other movie, but here it's at the tail-end of the forty minute opening, followed by Boonyasak's sister's death, then by title. And a scene of him cleaning up after killing the assassin (in self-defense more than revenge. He'll say later that he didn't particularly like his brother), wherein the camera molests a bloody knife, a bloody wall, some bloody books, lots of bloody things. It's all scenery, no talking.

-Right. I also liked how Pen-Ek Ratanaruang/editor/cinematographer/whoever was in charge of such things set it up to look like Boonyasak's sister was going to be the lead female. We first see her looking at a children's book, one shelf away from Tadanobu, who looks on from a gap. It's creepy without intention, the kind of meet-cute conventional movies would've run with.

-Sorry if this is terribly incoherent so far. But I'm a shit reviewer.

-This is a quiet movie. It's a chaste romance, between a two people who don't speak each others' language, but both speak English pretty well. The yakuza comes after them for different reasons, witness elimination and nasty-boyfriend-vengeance. It's lighthearted sometimes, like this scene where Boonyasak's house starts cleaning itself, encompassing the kind of trippiness this movie wants to exude.

-The actors are fine. Play their parts well. Nothing much to say about them. Poor dears.

-There's a thin line between what's real and what the characters are imagining. Hence: the end.