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Movie Review: Last Life in the Universe

Alternate Title: Lost in Translation - Asian Style

Story: This one is a head scratcher and I can only recommend it to serious film fans who like challenges. In a nonlinear, often dreamlike fashion Thai writer and director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (try using spell check on that name) and co-writer Prabda Yoon deliver a visually stunning clash of cultures that combines a love story and mystery.

The opening shot finds our Japanese protagonist attempting to commit suicide by hanging himself in his immaculate uncluttered apartment in Bangkok. Does he succeed? Is the film real or are we watching events from another dimension? He eventually meets a Thai woman whose lifestyle is diametrically opposed to his own ordered existence. As they say -- opposites attracts.

The film explores the challenges and beauty of intercultural communication with a little bit of magic realism, sudden violence and surprise. I was never entirely sure what I was watching but was engaged by it all anyway. It gave me a lot to think about as I exited the theater.

Kudos to photographer Christopher Doyle (The Quiet American, In the Mood For Love) who's genius in each frame made this film as entertaining as it was for me. Many scenes reminded me of paintings. The design element was strong and powerful throughout.

Acting: Asano Tadanobu (Zatoichi) was elegant and believable as the Japanese man. Sinitta Boonyasak as the Thai love interest was beautiful and engaging.

Predilection: None

Critters: A few dogs and some fish.

Food: Beer, Sushi and noodles.

Visual Art: An Escher print, Day and Night is featured prominently in the orderly Japanese man's apartment.

Opening Titles: The name of the film does not appear on screen until about 45 minutes into the film.

Theater Audience: About 10 people. One guy way up front was laughing through most of the film. (I found that a little intimidating.)

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 5

Squirm Scale: 0

Predictability Level: I am still not sure what happened.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: This film is only showing at one theater in Manhattan. I think if you are interested in this Sundance favorite you'll probably have to rent it.

Length: Under two hours.