Modern Mondays: Last Life in the Universe (2003)

Is it Monday already? Lately the weeks seem to fly by but I managed to pull a little something together for Modern Monday. Forgive the brevity of my blog posts lately, but house hunting continues to consume most of my free time at the moment. With that in mind I figured I’d share a little something about a film that is much more interested in images than words.

Last Life in the Universe (aka Ruang rak noi nid mahasan, 2003) is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on life, death, alienation and reconciliation written and directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang with breathtaking cinematography by the impeccable Christopher Doyle. It also features an wonderfully subtle performance by one of my favorite working actors, the brilliant Tadanobu Asano.

Last Life in the Universe forgoes familiar storytelling techniques and uses it’s own surreal language to examine familiar themes in an unconventional way. This macabre and melancholy movie is touching but never sappy and it always maintains its sense of humor. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s innovative film occasionally recalls the work of filmmakers such as Louis Bunuel and even Jean Cocteau but Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Thai background gives his film a unique perspective and tone.

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Last Life in the Universe is currently available on DVD and can be purchased at Amazon for $24.99. It should also be available for rent at Netflix.com and Greencine.com

Modern Mondays is an ongoing project here at Cinebeats where I share a few thoughts or lengthy rants and raves about my favorite films produced during the last decade. Films previously mentioned on Modern Mondays include:

The Left Bank (2008)
Love Songs (2007)
Bright Future (2003)
Control (2007)
The Quiet American (2001)
A History of Violence (2005)
This Is England (2007)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Innocence (2004)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Cloverfield (2008)

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5 thoughts on “Modern Mondays: Last Life in the Universe (2003)

  1. Brian says:

    Great choice, great stills! I would say that this is my favorite of Pen-ek’s features, except that I haven’t had opportunities to see his last three. I guess Nymph has been getting somewhat better reviews than his previous two, so perhaps it’ll find its way to a local festival. I wish all three would come to catch us Frisco Bay Thai cinema fans (all five of us) up.

  2. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Thanks Brian! I’ve only seen one other Pen-ek film (6ixtynin9) which I enjoyed a lot but I I prefer Last Life in the Universe more due to its themes and cast (I can’t get enough of Asano) as well as Doyle’s cinematography. I’m dying to see his other film with Asano (Invisible Waves) but no luck with that yet. I can’t understand why it hasn’t gotten a US DVD release yet?

  3. Peter Nellhaus says:

    Monrak Transistor is available in a R0 version, while Invisible Waves is only available as a R3 DVD. I’m frustrated that after almost two years, there’s still no DVD of Ploy with English subtitles. The company eThaiCD.com has Fun Bar Karaoke on VCD by the way, also with English subtitles.

  4. Bob Turnbull says:

    “Last Life…” is probably my fave Pen-ek as well, though I did like “Ploy” more than most. Considering Peter’s comment about “Ploy” still being unavailable, I’m kinda kicking myself for not being able to see his latest “Nymph” at the just completed TIFF. I didn’t hear great buzz about it, but there were many who thought the dreamlike nature of it was quite lovely.

    I did get a chance to see his contribution to the omnibus film “Sawasdee Bangkok” (four 20-25 minute shorts made for TV pulled from a larger set of nine – all done by Thai directors) which was good, though not as visually gorgeous as the rest of his work. An interesting spin on the omnibus projects devoted to cities actually – since all the directors were Thai, they didn’t focus so much on the beauty of their city and raised some of the issues (mostly to do with poverty, slums, etc.).

  5. Kimberly Lindbergs says:

    Peter – Thanks for the info about DVD releases. It’s really frustrating that more of Pen-ek’s films aren’t available on R1 DVD.

    Bob – You’ve got me curious to see Ploy and Nymph now! Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see more of the director’s work soon.

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