Too Tired to Die (1998)


USA. 1998.


Director/Screenplay – Wonsuk Chin, Producers – Donna L. Bascom & Victor Hwang, Photography (colour + some scenes b&w) – Jim Denault, Music – Mader, Production Design – Lisa Albin. Production Company – Black Swan Productions/Dream Search Entertainment


Takeshi Kaneshiro (Kenji), Mira Sorvino (Death), Michael Imperioli (Fabrizio), Ben Gazzara (John Sage), Geno Lechner (Pola), Jeffrey Wright (Balzac Man), Hye Soo Kim (Anouk), Drena De Niro (Waitress)


Kenji, a young Japanese man living in New York, dreams about a beautiful woman. He wakes to find her in his room, whereupon she informs him that she is Death and that he has until 9 pm that evening to live. Kenji sets out to make the most of the time he has left. His quest takes him through a series of encounters with strange and intriguing people.

Too Tired to Die is a film that meditates about death. It might (probably inevitably will) be compared to Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece The Seventh Seal (1957). Both Too Tired to Die and The Seventh Seal feature a personified death and meditated on the issue of What It All Means. On the other hand, whereas The Seventh Seal is a profound work of nihilism informed by Nietzshche, Too Tired to Die‘s influences seem to be New York coffee house intellectualism and the indie film.

Too Tired to Die is a quirky little film that proposes the question “What would you do if you had twelve hours to live?” The film never offers any particularly profound answers to that question but instead assembles a series of witty, laconic character encounters – like the guy in the coffee house who repeats conversations word for word and gives a lengthy monologue about why he carries a copy of Balzac without ever reading it; the drag queen who offers sympathy to the hero but talks more about her own problems; the waitress on her first day on the job; and especially the young girl who is certain that everything revolves around sex. It all works genially, even if it kind of falls apart by the end.

Takeshi Kaneshiro has an enormous degree of likeability and warmth in the lead – he almost seems too nice and untroubled for someone living his last hours. Mira Sorvino on the other hand fails to quite fill her part – she seems to radiate too much Hollywood glamour for an indie film. The film is notable for featuring several actors before they went onto bigger things, including Michael Imperioli, who became a regular on tv’s The Sopranos (1999-2007) and the award-winning character actor Jeffrey Wright, who should be better known than he is.

Since its premiere at the 1998 Sundance Festival, Too Tired to Die remained in a distribution limbo and has not been widely seen. It should be given a chance as it holds many delights. The only other work that South Korean-born director Wonsuk Chin has made is the documentary E-Dreams (2001) about the collapse of a dotcom.

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