"We played it to Jim Jarmusch and his colleagues in a private screening in New York," Pen-Ek told the Telegraph. "When we met in New York last month, he told me he loved the film. It meant a lot to me."
It was Jarmusch's second full-length feature, Stranger Than Paradise (1983), that really captivated the young Pen-Ek, says The Telegraph. Born in Bangkok in 1962, he first saw the film in New York. He had moved there in 1977 to study art history at the city's Pratt Institute, before working as a freelance illustrator and designer. It was a period of his life he remembers fondly:
New York is where I caught the cinema virus. Living there made me aware of art cinema and world cinema and personal cinema. It introduced me to the cinema of Fellini, Bergman, Woody Allen. And Jim Jarmusch cinema, of course."Pen-Ek and Jarmusch share some of the same tastes, especially music.
"I didn't know anything about this film at all," Pen-Ek admits. "I didn't know who Jim Jarmusch was. I just happened to walk past a cinema downtown and I saw this black-and-white poster showing two guys standing and a girl in a car, all of them wearing sunglasses. It was a great poster. I went in to see the film because of the poster.
"It was the most charming thing I had ever seen. I couldn't believe cinema could be about something so small, so unimportant, so lazy and yet so funny and moving and so unpretentious. It was a very special feeling. I didn't want to go anywhere after the film finished. I just wanted to go sit somewhere and smoke cigarettes. It was magical for me. Every scene involving the character Aunt Lotte is great. She's superbly natural. When I was watching the film for the first time I was wondering whether she knew there was a camera recording her and that she was in a movie.
"I'm sure it must have had some sort of influence on my own film-making, but I don't know what exactly. And that's not very important. What's important for me is that Stranger Than Paradise introduced me to another kind of mentality and taste; a taste very natural to me but which I didn't know. After that film, I started reading about Jarmusch and following his later films, got to know and love the cinematography of Robbie Muller, got to watch and enter into the films and universe of Aki Kaurismaki, got to know Ozu's films, got to listen to Tom Waits."
"It's very important. We always edit with it. We often edit with music - for rhythm - then remove it later. In Last Life In The Universe we wanted the audience not to notice when the music comes in or when it goes out. It's there to create atmosphere. I'm drawn to any style of music as long as it's sad. I'm very fond of depressing music. I think it's beautiful. My favourite musicians are Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Marianne Faithfull."Pen-Ek also talked about what makes him laugh and cry.
"When you run your finger across the underside of my foot, that will definitely make me laugh a lot. Marijuana makes me laugh a lot too. If someone tells me I cannot have Thai food in the next three days, that would make me cry. If someone tells me I cannot make films anymore, I would cry. Every Kaurismaki film always makes me cry - they are very, very beautiful films."He also talks about Tropical Malady.
"Tropical Malady is definitely one of my favourite films of this year, and not because Apichatpong is a good friend. He's a seriously good filmmaker. The few of us here have, in the past four to five years, done our fair share of inspiring and helping young filmmakers. Nowadays, it's great for young filmmakers living in Thailand. It is not necessarily that their films are good, but they get the opportunities to make their films. How good they are or will become depends entirely on their own talent, conviction and ambition."He talks about his next project: another collaboration with Last Life lensman Christopher Doyle and co-writer Prabda Yoon.
"It's about cooking, food, sex, murder and has lots and lots of dialogue in all sorts of languages. This one is very difficult. We're still looking for money for the project."The Telegraph's Tim Robey also provided a capsule review of Last Life, but to save you the trouble of registering to read it, here it is:
Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang's spacey romantic drama is a disappointment after his vibrant Monrak Transistor, never coming together in the offbeat way you want.The guys apparently doesn't like any movies, but with the likes of King Arthur, New York Minute and Garfield: The Movie, I don't blame him.