[For the next two weeks, Alec will be covering select films from the New York Asian Film Festival. For complete coverage of the festival, make sure to check out the page for the tag “NYAFF11.” Keep watching throughout the week as we bring you more reviews!]
Based on a manga that I have never heard of, Last Days of the World has a relatively simple concept. Kanou, a failure of a high school student, sees a three inch version of God while he’s daydreaming in class. This miniature deity tells him to go out and defeat the man who is here to destroy the world. Instead of abiding by God’s request, he takes that to mean the world has only a few days left, and that he should go do whatever the hell he wants. What does he want? Well… sex. Also violence… but mostly sex. Lots of sex.
The film, having its world premiere at the NYAFF, is not from the era that it is trying to emulate, but it sounds like director Eiji Uchida is trying to bring a modern twist to the good old days. We all know that I love exploitation films, so I am absolutely behind him, assuming he succeeds. Did he? Let’s find out.
Last Days of the World is absolutely bizarre, and not really in a good way. As I explained, the film is about a kid who wants to have sex with pretty much everybody, which isn’t particularly out there. In the vein of old-school exploitation, this would logically lead the viewer to think that the film is going to be Kanou going out and having sex with every person he meets. If you, like me, looked at the description from the NYAFF website, you saw the following (also, spoilers):
“Kanou’s eager to sow his wigged-out oats any which way he can, but he’s got issues. A pair of dim cops are hot on his trail, and he can’t seem to figure out his carnal logistics. Just when all seems lost, he begins receiving special bulletins from “God” via the radio. ‘Use mayonnaise!’ God commands, and Kanou lubes up and bears down. Next up: scat, crossdressing, and sodomy-by-food.”
I saw that and thought, “Wow! That is so zany! I can’t wait to see what else the film has in store for me!” Unfortunately, the answer is “nothing,” and therein lies the problem with the film. It successfully emulates all of the worst part of exploitation films without bringing in any of the good parts. Even worse, the more ridiculous parts of the film are downplayed in favor of extended periods of nothing. A house filled with people doing ridiculous cosplay seems like a perfect set up for some hilarious orgy or something, but, after what seemed like fifteen minutes with the only “action” being a female punk-rock singer crying about her ex-boyfriend, you realize that somewhere in the production the film went off track, and that is a shame.
Part of the problem is that the beginning is actually pretty decent. There is potential there. The first few scenes, where the viewer gets to learn a little bit about Kanou’s (lack of) personality, are quite funny. When God appears in all of his miniature glory, it’s funny. The problem is that, when the film sets out to follow Kanou’s journey, what was once pretty consistently amusing becomes kind of boring and weird. There are moments that shine, but they are far too brief, and the film feels far too long even with its 96 minute runtime.
The potential thrill of violence (which is generally incited by Kanou hitting things in the head with a baseball bat) is hampered by the lack of sound effects in the film. Punch yourself in the shoulder. Seriously, do it. That sound is what it sounds like when people get hit in the head with a bat. That is not the sound of someone getting hit with a bat. That is the sound of someone getting weakly punched in the shoulder. The guns that go off later in the film are likewise not dubbed over, and the only real cue that they went off is the cloud of something that comes out of the barrel.
The film looks like it was made on a twelve-dollar budget, which would forgive the lack of sound effects if they truly went all out with the no-budget thing, merely cutting between scenes with no other editing. Unfortunately, there is music in the film (terrible music that never really fits the mood, but music nonetheless), meaning they made a concious effort to ruin the impact of the violence by not using sound effects… and I can only ask “Why?” This is a film that is supposed to revel in its insanity, sex, and violence, but it doesn’t! It randomly throws them into the film and fills the space in between with things. The “things” aren’t even exposition, because there really is no story. They’re just things.
This is a lot of me complaining, but the film does have some high points. As I said, the film is actually pretty funny, but it’s so… bizarre. The real problem has to do with expectations. Go in expecting a cavalcade of sex and violence and you will be sorely disappointed. Go in expecting a bizarrely funny film that has some violence and sex but is not really about anything and you may be able to sit back and enjoy it. The film has nothing to offer the world of cinema… but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Last Days of the World will not go down in history as a great film, and it probably won’t go down as a good one either… but it certainly has an audience. I expected to be part of that audience, but I was not.