Last Life In The Universe is a Thai film by a director (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang – of Mon-Rak Transistor fame) who is well aware his audience is predominantly in the West. Why else would this slight love story between a morbid Japanese youth and a messy Thai hostess take place predominantly in stilted, second language English? There is probably a decent theme of cultural cross-over when the only language you have in common is one you do not speak well, but it become clear in the final third that Noi, the Thai girl, actually has a pretty good grasp of Japanese. And it is not as if Kenji, the Japanese suicidal, ever says all that much.

Barry Salt, the film theorist, did a lot of work in the eighties about shot length, concluding that the Average Shot Length (ASL) has been decreasing since film has started. Salt does not editorialize these findings, others make the link between low attention spans and the others. The closest Salt gets to being pointed on the issue is regarding arthouse films. The greater the pretension to art, the greater the shot length he notes.

Last Life In The Universe has some absurdly long (and coincidentally beautiful) shots in it. It is in the main the very epitome of langourous; the middle section when the couple with nothing in common probably has ten lines of script for its hour long segment. And yet it did not annoy me, and did not seem to overdo it. Instead you could rely on surprising moments of dead-pan humour, the scatology and occasional absurdities reflected nicely on the over-all piece. The section in the middle where the house is being tidied Sorcerer Apprentice style around Noi is a clever piece of filming, a great special effect and a potential approximation of what Noi’s stoned mind thinks of Kenji’s tidying. It is a film which walks the tightrope between absurdity, slowness and beauty – and on another day I may have hated it. But then it was aimed directly at me and this odd mix of Wong-Kar Wai and Woody Allen worked last night.