A Thai film is on Salon's top 10 for 2004. Last Life in the Universe came in at No 4 on both lists compiled by Stephanie Zacharek and Charles Taylor.
Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang's spun-sideways love story has the element of surprise working for it. A handsome librarian (Asano Tadanobu) falls for a young mystery woman, but it's that woman's sister (Sinitta Boonyasak) who ultimately holds the most mystery of all. "Last Life in the Universe" is stunning to look at, evocative and passionate in its abstract beauty. And it reminds us that gangsters are people too.And says Taylor:
Working in various countries, Asian directors are delivering something approaching the excitement and sense of discovery that the nouvelle vague filmmakers gave French film in the '60s. One of two contemporary Thai directors on this list, Pen-ek Ratanaruang made what is perhaps the year's most dreamlike picture. Shot by master cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who also shot Hero, Last Life is a sort of deadpan screwball comedy in which a lost man (Asano Tadanobu) is brought back to life by a kooky young girl (Sinitta Boonyasak). Only he's not really lost and she's not really a kook. Pen-ek doesn't use the conventions of screwball comedy here as much as he evokes its melancholy ghost. The tone is one of retreat from the messiness of life and finally acceptance of that messiness as the very essence of life. Seemingly light as air, the film achieves real emotional weight, and leaves an aura that stays with you.Zacharek headed her list with Before Sunset, House of Flying Daggers and Hotel Rwanda. Taylor had Flying Daggers, Hero and Before Sunset.
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)