Monday, February 09, 2004

Thailand director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe, an austere and beautifully shot film ( no small thanks to HKSC Christopher Doyle's brilliant photography ) is at its very heart, the simple story of two hopeless souls meeting in tragic serendipity and learning to have hope in their lives again, albeit clumsily. Maximizing the creative cinematographic prowess of Doyle, as well as a refined, minimalistic script, ( both protaganists, especially Kenji, played with relish by Tadanobu Asano , barely speak more than a few lines in every conversation ), Pen-Ek blends the nuanced performances from the 2 actors with the richly designed and detailed production incidentals ( sets, notably Noi's ramshackle home, in all its ransacked glory, music, supporting roles ) with great effect. The result is a highly accomplished film low on flashy visual spectacles ( cept perhaps for the moments when Kenji's Yakuza past is revealed, with much applaud ), high on emotional impact, and very good filmmaking.

On an interesting sidenote, as the credits rolled several loud "huhs" could be heard, a mixture of disdain and bewilderment. Last life, lacking a definite and clearcut ending ( ie Kenji and Noi driving their VW into the sunset ), greatly disturbs the hollywooders.

Sometimes, the journey is indeed the destination.