Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Last Life in the Universe, Mago

Last Life in the Universe (directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang):

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – this movie is beautifully shot! But when the cinematographer is Christopher Doyle, you don’t expect any less. The aussie born Doyle has been responsible for the visual beauty of films such as 2046, Dumplings (Fruit Chan’s movie in Three..Extremes), Hero, Chunking Express. And in Last Life.., the movie feels cool, pure and clean. Which is in fact the opposite of what we really should be feeling. Okay, the main character (Kenji) is very organized and keeps his apartment clean but he feels anything but that. He wants to commit suicide so he tries to hang himself. However, his attempt is thwarted by his brother’s visit. During his next suicide attempt (shooting himself), his brother shows up again. This time his brother has brought a fellow Yakuza, Takashi Miike. And when it’s Miike involved, we sort of expect what happens next. Bang Bang. The brother is dead. Kenji survives by killing the Yakuza. Shocked, bewildered, Kenji decides to head out to a bridge to kill himself by jumping off. A teenage girl who has had a fight with her sister over her flirting with men (one of the men she was flirting with was Kenji’s brother, which is the reason why Kenji’s brother was killed) ends up walking on the bridge. She sees Kenji and calls out to him from the other side. Their eyes meet for a few seconds before a car crashes into her. Kenji goes to visit her in the hospital but she does not survive. Kenji then forms a bond with the girl’s sister who is a completely different person from Kenji. Opposites attract? Yes, slowly but surely. Meanwhile, the Yakuza are on Kenji’s trail to avenge the murder of their colleague. A Japanese man in Bangkok, a local Thai woman! Confused, alienated, lost!

A visually gorgeous movie which is never dull despite its relaxed pace!

Mago (2002 movie directed by Hyeon-il Kang):

The movie opens with a shot of countless frogs on the road. Think Magnolia. And then a car (or cars) drives over the frogs. Blood all over. Cut to next shot. A man sitting on his computer, agonizing over the illusionary woman, Mago, that he has been chasing all his life. Who is Mago? She is the creator of the universe, the mother! What follows next are numerous shots of naked women taking place in Paradise, Eden. For a while I tried following this movie but eventually, I grew weary. A very abstract movie which tries to show how man’s destructive force towards nature and the planet have led to its decline. But there are more ways to get ones point across as opposed to having narrative while showing naked women on the screen. There a lot of good ideas here but they didn’t work in this format.

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