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   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #492  (Vol. 10, No. 35)  This edition is for the week of August 24--30, 2009.

"The Time Traveler's Wife"  by Mike Smith
Forgotten Horrors: A * P * E  by ED Tucker
Last Life in the Universe  by Jason Fetters
Music In Your Lifetime  by Bobby Tyler
Medicare Cuts For 2.5 Trillion Obamacare? .... Maher: We're Still Stupid .... Townhall Jokes .... Get A New Ev .... The Charming Liar .... .... Girl Flees Honor Killing .... Ted by Brandon Jones
Bucs Record .... Burress .... Massive Video Board .... Vick .... .... .... .... by Chris Munger
2 Dog Night .... And Now A Brief Commerical Message .... Movie Notes .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
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Last Life in the Universe

Pen-Ek Ratanruag directed this gem of a movie in 2003 that is a quiet, soft meditation on life and love. It stars Tadanobu Asano, an edgy indies actor and star of Ichi the Killer, Bright Land, the comedy The Taste of Tea, as a librarian, named Kenji, who is living and working in Bangkok. Not much is known about Kenji's past but you can tell from the film's opening what kind of guy he is. From the beginning, you see his small cramped apartment with books stacked everywhere. Suits are hung up ironed and clean in his closet. Everything is so clean and spotless. No food or drink cans left out in the open. Kenji seems like a quiet humble book lover until he stands on a stack of books with a noose around his neck. That's when things get interesting.

Kenji's suicide attempt is taunted by his Yakuza brother banging on the door. You get the feeling that they don't really have much in common and that his brother is the black sheep.

Next is Noi, played by Sinitta Boonyasak, who is driving a car and arguing with her sister Nid. Both work in a Thai hostess club that carters to Japanese men. At the club they have to wear school girl uniforms and bunny ears. The argument between the sisters reaches a point that Noi stops the car and demands that Nid get out. As she gets out something happens and she steps out in the street only to be hit by a car and dies.

Back in Kenji's apartment, his brother is drunk with another Yakuza friend. Then Kenji, sitting in bed, hears shots. He finds a gun inside a gift from his brother. After all the shots died out, Kenji peeks out his doorway to see his brother dead and he uses the gun to take down the man who killed his brother.

Kenji cleans the house, hides the bodies somewhere inside, and leaves.

While driving he sees Nid out in the street and see the accident. Through this experience Kenji and Noi meet. They are both linked by a sibling's death. Since Kenji can't return to his apartment, he winds up in Noi house, far away from his apartment, past the Thai beaches, to a remote rural area.

Here is where the film creates interesting, humorous juxtapositions. Noi has stacks of dirty dishes in the sink, lizards run rampant, books, clothes, used ramen bowls, and dirty papers are scattered around the house.

This begins a strange relationship between Kenji who feels compelled to clean Noi's house, and Noi who wants to know who this weird Japanese man is in her house and why he doesn't want to leave. They sleep in separate rooms, not even a hint of any type of sexual activity, and eat cheap ramen noodles every night.

Finally they grow closer together through Noi's grieving about Nid's death, to Kenji playing the perfect boarder who cleans up the house and actually seems to enjoy cleaning dishes that haven't been cleaned in a long time.

Kenji hasn't had a girlfriend in a long time so he treats Noi like a sister. Mostly they watch TV together as Noi drinks beer and smokes pot. Some of the best scenes in the movie are Noi walking around her house, high on pot, seeing visions of papers dancing in the area. It's a poetic moment that gives the film a little touch of escapism. Noi is going to Osaka soon and so they only have a few days together. Kenji, happens to be from Osaka so they are linked again by location.

Kenji and Noi spend most of their time watching violent movies on TV. They go out for a drive to see the beach. Sometimes they go out to eat. It's in the scenes watching TV together that you noticed something else is going on. As Noi smokes joint after joint, she finally invites Kenji to sit next to her on the sofa. He does so and Noi rests her head on his lap. Kenji lets his head fall back on the sofa and for the first time in the movie looks relaxed and happy.

It's the best shot in the movie as they just sit there touching each other quietly resting as soft background music plays.

This film offers a number of surprises in the end, which I don't want to go into here. It does feature a cameo by Miike Takashi, director of Audition, Imprint for Showtimes' "Masters Horror" series and many others, as a Yakuza sent to Bangkok to find out what happened to Kenji's brother.

There are a number of different talents involved in this film, besides director Pen-Ek Ratanruag, Tadanobu, and Sinitta, there's the beautiful breath taking cinematography of Christopher Doyle and the quiet ambient music played by Hualampong Riddim and Small Room. Another interesting fact is that the film's dialogue is a mixture of Thai, Japanese, and English which creates a level of realism. When you travel in Asia, you never know what language, beside the native language, you'll end up hearing.

Last Life won numerous awards in Thailand and other Asian countries. Tadanobu won the Upstream Prize at Venice.

If you get a chance to see this, I don't think you'll be disappointed. There are quiet times of everyday life and violent actions scenes mixed in but not overdone.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.