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Sawatwong Palakawong Na Autthaya
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. Written by
This the first film I've seen by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and without a doubt its one of the most accomplished and satisfying I've seen all year.
Two polar opposite characters - a quiet and meticulous Japanese librarian with a shady past and designs on ending his life (Asano Tadanobu) and a feisty, straight-talking thai female escort (Sinitta Boonyasak) - have one thing in common and not much else it seems. They are both utterly lonely, albeit for different reasons - she is recently bereaved of her sister, he for a reason never fully disclosed is distanced from the world, an introverted outsider with no good reason to go on. Thrown together by a sequence of events (chance or fate?) they take solace from each others presence. From this, lets face it, not original germ grows an enchanting, touching and idiosyncratic movie.One that's not concerned with characterisation, an intricate plot or histrionic's but with how two troubled, contradictory people growcloser and in the process rediscover a reason for being, for going on in the universe. Due to the language barrier (they flit from talking Thai, Japanese and English to understand one another) they may not have meaningful discourse, but here the meaning is hidden behind the formalities, the pedestrian, the everyday.
I'm not going to launch into an extended essay or spew to many superlatives but believe me when I say its a strange delight. Assured, amusing and touching, this multi-lingual film is replete with a dry wit, a surreal element that leaves a lot to interpretation and a deft ability to prick the emotions. There are laudable performances from the two central characters, and a third from Christopher Doyle's shifting oblique camera-work and composition. And despite its clear East Asian cinematic influences (in tone it reminds me of Kitano's Dolls - the lingering pace and melancholy signature theme music and it features a yakuza based subplot) Last Life evokes modern day Thailand in all its chaotic ramshackle splendour brilliantly.
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