Monday, September 1, 2014

Case Study No. 1544: Kenji

Last Life In The Universe (U.S. DVD trailer)
Theatrical trailer from the U.S DVD release of "Last Life in the Universe", directed by Pen-Ek Ratanruang and starring Asano Tadanobu, Sinitta Boonyasak, Laila Boonyasak and Takashi Miike, cinematography by Christopher Doyle HKSC, screenplay by Prabda Yoon.
Tags: Last Life In The Universe Asano Tadanobu Sinitta Boonyasak Laila Takashi Miike Christopher Doyle Pen-Ek Ratanruang
Added: 7 years ago
From: iankasley
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[scene opens with a shot of a lizard clinging to the ceiling of an apartment, while someone off camera speaks in Japanese]
KENJI: [translated] The lizard wakes up and finds he's the last lizard in the universe. His family and friends are all gone.
[cut to a shot of a Japanese woman, as she finds the man lying under her parked car]
NOI: [translated] What are you doing there?
["Last Life in the Universe" appears on screen, then cut to Noi and Kenji driving in her car (talking in English)]
KENJI: Can I go to your house?
NOI: Why you not go home?
KENJI: My house smells bad. Two dead people inside.
[she laughs]
NOI: You should clean your house, huh?
[cut to various scenes from the movie, as Kenji continues to narrate from off camera]
KENJI: [translated] The lizard is all alone. He misses his family and friends, even his enemies ... "It's better being with your enemies than being alone." That's what he thought.
[cut to the two talking in her apartment (in English)]
NOI: Are you married?
NOI: You have girlfriend?
[cut to more scenes from the movie, as Kenji continues to narrate from off camera]
KENJI: [translated] Staring at the sunset, he thinks ... "What is the point in living if I don't have anyone to talk to?"
["Last Life in the Universe" appears on screen, then cut back to the two of them in her apartment]
NOI: You want to see me again?
NOI: [translated] When?
KENJI: [translated] One day.

Last Life in the Universe
A film by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang




Ratanaruang, Pen-Eka (Director). Last Life in the Universe. Thailand: Bohemian Films, 2003.

Starring: Tadanobu Asano (Kenji, Assistant Librarian); Sinitta Boonyasak (Noi)

Original title: Ruang rak noi nid mahasan

This award-winning Korean indie features Kenji, a young Japanese obsessive-compulsive assistant librarian at the Japan Culture Center in Bangkok who is hell-bent on committing suicide. Fate interrupts at every turn (hanging, shooting, smothering, a leap off a bridge, hara kiri, etc.). His apartment looks like a library, with towering but neat piles of books and metal shelving. Even his shoes and clothes are neatly categorized and labeled. He is quiet, wears glasses, and gets involved with a Thai woman who is his polar opposite (Oscar Madison could take lessons from her). They communicate through broken English. The running theme is lizards, as in the Japanese children's book he carries around (The Last Lizard, who even misses his enemies). The librarian in me asks at the end, "Will that book get returned to the library?" Most ironic quote, said to Kenji: "You can't just read. You'll go crazy." Duh.



Last Life in the Universe (Thai title: Ruang rak noi nid mahasan) is a 2003 Thai film directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. The film is notable for being trilingual; the two main characters flit from Thai to Japanese to English as their vocabulary requires. The film stars Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano and Sinitta Boonyasak.

Kenji is a lonely librarian in the Japan Foundation in Bangkok. Living in an apartment full of precise stacks of books, his half-hearted attempts to kill himself is continually interrupted by the people around him. Kenji's most notable obstacle is his self-absorbed brother, Yukio, a yakuza, or Japanese gangster. Yukio fled from Japan to escape the wrath of his employer, with whose daughter he had had sex. Yukio's friend Takashi suggests that if it were his daughter, he would have the despoiler killed, but Kenji's brother laughs this warning off. Yukio frequents a club where he can enjoy the attention of a bunny-eared hostess, a local girl named Nid. Nid's sister, Noi, is furious at her sibling for having slept with her boyfriend, Jon.

One day in the library, Kenji spies on Nid, clad in a school girl's uniform. Soon after, he discovers that his brother has hidden a pistol inside a teddy bear. He is about to shoot himself when Yukio is slain by Takashi, who was apparently hired by Yukio's employer. (During the library scene where Kenji first encounters Nid, a hanging poster for the Takashi Miike film Ichi the Killer is clearly featured. Tandanobu Asano was also the star of that film.)

Takashi sees Kenji, who appears hopeful at his impending death, but suddenly Kenji shoots and kills the assassin. Not long after that, Kenji is about to jump off a bridge when Noi and Nid, driving past, have an argument. Noi throws Nid out of the car, then reconsiders. Nid, distracted by Kenji sitting on the railing of the bridge, is struck by another car and dies.

Kenji and Noi, both having lost a sibling, form a tentative friendship. The introspective Kenji asks the extroverted Noi if he can stay with her, unwilling to spend time with the two corpses in his apartment. Noi agrees, and invites the fussy Japanese man into her disastrously unkempt beachside home. As Kenji begins cleaning, Noi prepares to leave for Japan to further her career. Surreal elements creep into the film; Noi sees the house magically cleaning itself, while Kenji watches Noi transform into her temptress sister. The couple, in some ways polar opposites and in some ways mirror images, form a semi-romantic relationship. Meanwhile, the abusive and promiscuous ex-boyfriend Jon begins calling, angry that Noi thinks she can leave him. Three yakuza are also dispatched to find out what has happened to Takashi.

In the final segments, Kenji drives Noi to the airport, then decides he will join her. He returns to his apartment to gather his things and purposely knocks over a stack of books. While he is in the bathroom, first Jon, then the yakuza arrive. Jon is slain, and Kenji apparently escapes out the window. The movie then cuts back and forth between two scenes: one, in which Kenji has been arrested for some unspecified crime, and another in which he is re-united with Noi in Japan. The relationship between or canonicity of these two scenes is not made clear by the movie - particularly whether the reuniting scene is imagined or not.

Throughout the movie are images of the furtive gecko who lives in Noi's house, as well as The Last Lizard, Kenji's children's book about a reptile who wakes up to discover he is the final member of his species. The fictional lizard realizes that even being with his enemies, the other lizards who picked on him, was preferable to being alone.

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