With his latest feature film, Pen-ek Ratanaruang proves to be one the most prolific and exciting directors to emerge in recent years. Last Life in the Universe pairs Ratanaruang with internationally acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Japan's leading actor, Tadanobu Asano. The collaboration results in a glorious surreal love story laced with magical realism that crosses physical, geographical, and, ultimately, emotional boundaries. Kenji (Asano) is a Japanese librarian's assistant living in Bangkok. His quiet lifestyle complements a mysteriousness that masks his obsessive-compulsive and suicidal behavior. Kenji's path becomes disrupted when Nid, the Thai woman whom he spies on between the bookshelves, dies. By some force of the universe, he befriends Nid's sister Noi, and the two embark on a relationship underscored by impending devastation. Noi lures Kenji back into the realm of life's chaotic pleasures, connections, and loss, just as she is about to leave for Osaka. Eventually Kenji's past and present converge as a trio of Yakuza come looking for him in Bangkok, adding a touch of humor that plays with one of the film's motifs of timing in life and "what if" scenarios. Kenji and Noi leap to life on-screen via the masterful restraint of Tadanobu and Thai actress Sinitta Boonyasak's strikingly beautiful and delicate performance. Last Life in the Universe, with its entrancing atmospheric tone, is an eloquent experience in cinema framed with alluring subtlety and haunting images.
Pen-ek Ratanaruang was born in Bangkok, Thailand, studied art history at the Pratt Institute in New York City, and returned to Thailand as the head of art at the Leo Burnett agency. He subsequently began directing commercials for The Film Factory (with which he remains associated) in Thailand, winning more than 20 national and international awards. Ratanaruang's first feature film, Fun Bar Karaoke (1997) was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the Festival des 3 Continents in France. His second film, 6ixtynin9 (1999), received numerous awards from film festivals including the FIPRESCI Award at the Hong Kong IFF and the New Horizon Award for Best Screenplay from Bangkok FF, and Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Thai Critics Awards. Mon-rak Transistor premiered at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes 2002 and screened at many international and U.S. film festivals, winning the Asian Trade Wind Award at the Seattle International Film Festival.