Last Life In The Universe (2003)

DVD Cover (Palm Pictures)
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Overall Rating 75%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,729
...out of 13,218 movies
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A mysterious, obsessive-compulsive, suicidal Japanese man living in Bangkok, Thailand, is thrown together with a Thai woman through a tragic chain of events. The woman is everything he is not. He is a neat freak who keeps his dishes washed and his books neatly stacked and categorized. She dresses like a slob, smokes pot and never picks anything up. It's a match that somehow works, though. Slowly and entertainingly, more is revealed about the Japanese man and why he's suicidal and living in Bangkok. --IMDb
Review by Ginose
Added: February 12, 2009
I'm sure you wouldn't know it by how often I write reviews, but I watch a lot of movies in the course of a week. Just recently did I get off of my "Watch this because!" kick and decided to sit down and enjoy some movies that I missed out on and figured I'd like. Don't ask me what's been keeping me from doing this, as I ask myself that question too... all of the time... but never more-so than after watching this movie, as I say, with no hyperbole, this has instantly become one of my favorite films and, indeed, one of the best films I've ever seen.

Kenji isn't depressed. He isn't desperate. He has no money troubles. So we're a little in the dark about why he's contemplating suicide at the moment. He mentions that many books tell him that death is restful, so he bases that around his decision (suicide note reading "This is bliss.") to prop his noose about his neck. Just before forcing himself to his last breath, his door buzzes. Reluctantly, he answers to be greeted by beer, shoes and a gift (though, it's not for him) by his older brother. Kenji currently works as a librarian in Thailand, a job suited for his lifestyle like no other, where he politely denounces advances by his boss and, just recently, discovered a cute girl. Her looks may not be of much interest to him, but something is definitely attracts him. Not long after we're introduced to the girl, Nid, who works as a hostess at a bar an, incidentally, slept with her sister's boyfriend. After a bit of a mellowed argument, her sister kicks her from her car where she wanders along the highway, eventually seeing Kenji as he contemplates leaping from a bridge. The two turn to see one another, everything clicking at once as their gazes meet.

I'd like to note that I stopped the summary there simply because that's where the story truly begins. We get past our explanations for the characters and into our real conflict(s). Each one so subtly and beautifully etched into the overall story, flowing perfectly as each of the characters grows and develops. I don't even remember the last time I've seen this in a movie, much less executed so well. Each characters feelings are so clearly displayed through each performance that I wanted to re-watch several scenes throughout the running time... especially the beautiful (and remarkably enlightening), silent scene on the couch... the entire shot looked so magnificent that I had to go back and re-watch it two or three times... such splendid looks that you almost don't even notice the uncanny perspective of Kenji. A mess of other flawless scenes litter this film and it shocks me still how no one has seemed to accredit them such... proper respect comes loosely for foreign films these days, I suppose.

Now aside from my intense (AND COMPLETELY HETEROSEXUAL) man-crush on Asano's sexy, sexy self, I had no bias in this films favor, I knew little of the directors works and even less of the majority of players, but by the time the film had completed, I'd felt a whole plethora of emotions and I just didn't know what to walk away with. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe this film wasn't trying to speak too loud, maybe it was hardly trying to make a point, but, in the end, it felt too magical to even fish for a complaint... As I said, it takes a lot for a movie to prove itself so thoroughly to me, but "Last Life in the Universe" hit all the notes I could want from a drama and all of the sweet feelings that come with a deeply involved movie, a movie that knows what it's trying to be, even if you don't. Something I'm never happy to admit when I leave a film, perhaps because it makes me feel a bit too slow, like something was there and I missed it... sometimes I'm glad to say it simply because the director didn't even know what he wanted from it, that generally makes for a shitty film, but t his one hit the first category so beautifully that I can't even dislike it...

Performances may not be what I'd praise this movie highest for (that goes to the art-direction) but I was shaken by everyone involved, the leads to the secondary characters to the practical cameos, they all demanded presence with their lines. Maybe this is attributed more to the directors ability to focus attention on any piece of dialogue rather than the characters involved, but that can't take away from how well their executed. Asano leading it all with his brilliant portrayal, from start to finish, each change in personality, each tweak and little habit of his character are done so naturally. I'm really not sure when he's been better, but it pains me to think that he has been, because I missed it...

The plot never sits still, jerking you in each direction as each new conflict or character is introduced. Each plot element is dropped and jerked every which-way that you'd think it too frantic, but, no, it's soft and fluid, just as you'd imagine it could be, everything explained bit by bit as you come to realizations, whether you'd like to or not.

Nothing missed as it all goes on; things just click all the way through, blending and weaving an intriguing tale that teeters on the edge of ordinary and demented so cleverly that the two become one, leaving you begging for more. I've never been so sad to see a movie end, but it did... all good things have to.

I honestly haven't regretted missing a movie before. Even if it was fantastic and I put it off for years, I normally just walk away saying "Damn, I'm glad I finally watched that..." Not here. This is the first time, in recorded history, in which I've wanted to kick myself for not catching a movie on my first chance to view it. With any luck, the rest of this list will go just as well. Now, although I won't advise this film to everyone, be aware that it's a masterpiece of its genres and I, personally, am begging for more...

Ginose #1: Ginose - added 02/13/2009, 12:14 AM
Forgot to mention that the bit parts by Riki Takeuchi and Takashi Miike made me squeal like a girl and frantically wave my hands.
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 02/13/2009, 04:18 PM
Wow, I saw this movie in iFC or something a couple years back and really liked it.. For some reason I had always searched for it as 'Last Lizard in the Universe', glad you reviewed this.. I remember being totally submersed in this from beginning to finish and it really is a great one. I'm gonna go find it.

I kick ass for the Lord! #3: I kick ass for the Lord! - added 02/23/2009, 03:37 PM
Thanks for the review, I had looked at this title numerous times being an Asanophile like yourself, but I never pulled the trigger. I am excited to check this one out now.
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