I put as much time between seeing Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Last Life in the Universe (2004) and writing about it as I could. I even slept on it. I still don’t quite know what to make of it. Except for the fact that I’m hardly an expert on Thai Cinema (having seen The Protector probably isn’t enough), I’d just say it’s one of the odder movies I’ve encountered and let it go. But for all I know this strange movie may be fairly typical fare in Thaland, though I somehow doubt it. If it is, I want to see more because this is one fascinating — if not wholly accessible — movie.
At bottom, it’s more or less the story of Kenji (Tadanobu Asano, Tokyo Zombie), a suicidal and an extremely anal-retentive Japanese fellow working in a library in Bangkok. Through circumstances he ends up staying with an unbelivably slovenly young woman (Sinitta Boonyasak, Bite of Love) with a jealous boyfriend. That, however, conveys nothing of the flavor of the film, which includes Yakuza shootouts, a strange sex club, fantasies of suicide, a jumbled timeline, characters who change identities in the course of scenes (I think) and more. Somehow it works, imparting the feeling of being trapped in a disconcerting dream — a dream with a decidedly off-kilter sense of humor. Highly recommended as something different.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke