Monday, August 2, 2004

Last Life in Translation

The New York Times reports that Last Life in the Universe has opened in New York City.

They compare it to Lost in Translation, a comparison that director Pen-ek Ratanaruang is used to.

"Everyone says it's a companion piece," he told the Times. "Well, it's a love story that doesn't come to anything. In the end they didn't get together. Maybe they will get together after. So that's very similar. And there's some Japan connection."

Here's more:

There's also the fact that both are melancholy mood pieces, veined with black humor and beautiful to look at, about foreigners adrift in Asian cities. And the connections don't end there: at last year's Venice International Film Festival, Lost in Translation and Last Life split the acting awards in their area of competition. Scarlett Johansson won for playing a mixed-up American in Japan in Sofia Coppola's film, and Asano Tadanobu won for playing a mixed-up Japanese in Thailand in Mr. Ratanaruang's.

The question is, which is the companion piece? Many viewers may find that Last Life in the Universe, shot by the prodigious Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, The Quiet American), holds up awfully well against its Oscar-winning sister. Mr. Ratanaruang, 42, who studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York and worked in graphic design and advertising before taking up film, shares Ms. Coppola's international hipster tastes (he approves of Tom Waits and Haruki Murakami), but works with a greater languor and deadpan fatalism -- east of Jim Jarmusch, west of Wong Kar-Wai.

Mr. Ratanaruang, who manages to be simultaneously diffident and sly in conversation, says of his first American release: "If you don't like the film, I think you're okay. But if you do like it, I think you have problems. Because the people who seem to like the film, they have broken hearts, they're very lonely. They all have problems."

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