NYAFF 2011: THE LAST DAYS OF THE WORLD Review

I wonder if the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre saw God before they proceeded to shoot up their classmates- and if so- was God a middle-aged Japanese man in a bad suit? I mean, God does works in mysterious ways, and he asks people to do bad shit all the time.

Case in point: Eiji Uchida's The Last Days of the World. Last Days is an odd little film with a dark sense of humor. The situations are ridiculous, but their presentation is bone dry. The synopsis calls it "a return to the trippy, socially-engaged, blackly comic, violent revolutionary movies of Japan's 60's," but I found it to be more of a throwback to the 90's era American indie. Amongst many other things. 

It tells the story of a sullen high school student who is charged by God to stop "Him" from ending the world. I'm not sure who this "Him" is, and apparently neither is our hero. Instead of preventing the world's demise, he decides to live out the rest of his days doing whatever the fuck he likes. So he kidnaps his high school crush, steals a car and embarks on the adventure of what is left of his lifetime.

First stop on this trip? A convenience store to buy a condom, so he can rape his captive. It sounds horrible, but trust me- it's funny. Almost endearing. That's the kind of movie we're dealing with here. You see, our hero is a virgin, and he doesn't plan on dying that way. His deflowering is one of the highlights of the film, and involves enough mayonnaise to challenge Last Tango in Paris for most creative sexual use of a condiment.

Now I know what you're gonna say- none of this is God's fault. He didn't tell the kid to do all those bad things. Yeah? Well guess what? He didn't try and stop him, either. At the expense of the world, no less. Just doesn't seem right. But I don't think that's the point. Despite the presence of God, Last Days doesn't carry much of a religious message. It is more of a deranged road movie where teenage angst is the car and sexual desire is behind the wheel. 

Eventually the now ex-virgin crosses paths with a salary man who likes to dress as a pretty little schoolgirl. The cross-dresser is also hellbent on doing his own thing, and convinces the boy to accompany him to a house party for cosplay enthusiast. At this point, the film goes from being a mixture of Bonnie and Clyde, Larry Cohen's God Told Me To, and American Pie to a gleeful amalgamation of Eyes Wide Shut and Garden State. This is an odd mixture of references, to be sure, none of which overpower the identity of the film (and most of which are probably in my own mind.)

Speaking of which, Last Days plays with the idea that our hero might be crazy, or that it was all "just a dream," but never treats what we are seeing as anything but real. You'll find no rug-pulling plot twists here. Just plenty of bizarre situations that make increasingly less sense as the film progresses. I'd go as far as saying it gets downright existential towards the end. And that's one of the things I liked about the film. It forgoes explanation, choosing instead to stick to the vagueness of its guns. It points these guns at your head, demanding you provide your own interpretation while tears stream down your face. And gun to my head, the moral I took away from the film was this- live your life to the fullest, even if that involves kidnapping, rape and murder.

Wait, that can't be right, can it?

The Last Days of the World screens on Monday, July 4th and Friday, July 8th at the Walter Reade Theater. Tickets and info HERE.

Joshua Chaplinsky also writes for ChuckPalahniuk.net. He was a guitarist in the band SpeedSpeedSpeed and is the poison pen behind thejamminjabber, although he's not so sure he should admit it.


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