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Just Average: 12.73%
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6 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Last Days
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by Robert Flaxman

"Who financed this, and what does Gus Van Sant have pictures of them doing?"
1 stars

If you told me that I could have a million dollars, tax-free, and the only requirement was that first I had to make a movie less interesting than Last Days, I would tell you to keep your money. While slogging my way through 90 minutes of aimless wandering and pointless conversations that made Elephant look like a Mel Brooks comedy, I grew more and more convinced that trying to make a worse film would be almost as much of a waste of time as Last Days was.

On the heels of the tedious Gerry and the reprehensible Elephant, I can’t think of a single director working today on a worse roll than Van Sant, and that includes Keenen Ivory Wayans. By marginalizing Harris Savides’ cinematography, though – pretty much the only reason to watch either of the other two films – Van Sant has topped himself, sinking to depths of boredom and pretension that must have seemed unreachable before.

Last Days is ostensibly the third part of a trilogy (along with Gerry and Elephant), the common thread of which I have heard variously as death, alienation, or dehumanization. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because Van Sant doesn’t have a single illuminating thing to say about any of the above, just like he didn’t in the previous two films. Instead, we get yet another exercise in camerawork and banal improvisation, along with some disgustingly heavy-handed metaphors. (The one where Van Sant compares his main character to Jesus is particularly lousy.)

Blake (Michael Pitt) is a burned-out musician with a strong, intentional resemblance to Kurt Cobain. The film chronicles his activities in his last few days before committing suicide, which include, but are not limited to, walking around, passing out, sitting there while people say things to him, dressing in drag, and walking around some more. Oh, I forgot “playing the guitar” and “speaking in such a mumble that he can’t be understood 95% of the time.”

The fact is that Blake is absolutely nothing as a character. Certainly we learn nothing about him that we wouldn’t already have known simply by being told, “Oh, he’s supposed to be like Kurt Cobain.” He’s a musician and he wants to avoid anyone he knows. That’s it. I don’t know why Van Sant thinks that a completely blank character can have any real meaning, especially on subjects as potentially deep as death and human alienation, but evidently he does.

The supporting characters are even more pointless. Three of them live in Blake’s house, and the idea seems to be that they are trying too hard to ignore Blake’s problems, making them complicit in his eventual suicide. This would actually be a worthwhile idea if Van Sant didn’t totally undercut it by including another scene in which another character asks Blake to come with her and he refuses. He’s beyond help at this point, and since we know nothing of him before, we don’t know how long he’s been like this or how hard his friends may have previously tried to help him before resigning themselves to his fate. You can’t do a two-day study (and I use that word as loosely as possible) on something as life-altering as depression and claim that you’re making a grand statement about humanity. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t help that Van Sant himself approaches the proceedings with a detached, aloof manner that suggests he doesn’t care any more about Blake than anyone else. And if the writer/director doesn’t care about his main character, where does he get off in blaming his other characters for doing the same?

In another move straight out of an MFA thesis project, Van Sant shows certain scenes multiple times, but they prove as opaque on review as they did the first time, and sometimes more so. What on earth could be gained by seeing several more minutes of Blake avoiding a private detective that wouldn’t have been gained from the first time we saw the sequence? Oh wait, in the second one he goes into two additional rooms. That’s a profound statement on, um, the ability of the suicidally depressed to open doors? Maybe Van Sant was just trying to pad the film out to an hour and a half.

In the end, nothing about Last Days can be said to have had any impact. It certainly isn’t anything approaching an entertainment – though clearly it was not intended to be – but it lacks the plot, character development, and quality of ideas necessary to have made an actual point. The same can be said about Gerry and Elephant as well, meaning that Van Sant was somehow able to make a trilogy about a subject on which he is, clearly, wholly unqualified to speak. I’d be more convinced if Clint Eastwood made three films about how pretty ponies are.

Van Sant’s biggest achievement with Last Days, I suppose, is how effectively he gets us inside the head of his main character – less than ten minutes in, I was already considering killing myself just so I wouldn’t have to watch any more. Utterly devoid of ideas or emotion, Last Days’ great unresolved question isn’t why Blake would kill himself – it’s why he couldn’t have done it at the beginning and saved us all 90 minutes of our lives.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12289&reviewer=385
originally posted: 07/08/06 21:14:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/02/10 User Name For those patient enough to give ti a chance, Last Days is a capitvating piece of art. 3 stars
8/21/09 trash well, im at one hour now and i cant help thinking. why does he have to mumble so much... 2 stars
12/23/07 mm artsy. its decent, but Elephant was better 4 stars
9/14/06 Ash Watching a horse take a dump is more interesting than this garbage BOOOOO! 1 stars
7/21/06 Jen This guy needs a good whooping, where's Dave? 2 stars
4/10/06 Indrid Cold Excrutiatingly boring and pretentious, but I guess it achevies what it sets out to do. 2 stars
11/20/05 tatum About as entertaining as Nirvana's "music" 2 stars
10/30/05 ALBERT a piece of shit. 1 stars
9/25/05 a. kurlovs interesting meditation. some scenes are psychologically amusing 4 stars
9/21/05 nirvana rules that faggot screw everything, he's a sick man that make sick movies. sickening. 1 stars
9/09/05 Robert artsy,hypnotic, Must see at least twice. 5 stars
9/04/05 Green Gremlin Dust off your copy of "Nevermind" and give this arty farty mess a miss !!! 1 stars
9/02/05 Just Mike Was I watching a movie or a nature documentary? 1 stars
9/02/05 VoRn Hilariously Boring 1 stars
9/01/05 VoRn A masterpeice of shit. 1 stars
8/24/05 Michael Stoner A really bad way to lose two hours of your life. Waste of time. 1 stars
8/16/05 Dylan How dare they! 1 stars
8/04/05 Rob Not entertaining, but a plausable portrayal of that scene 4 stars
7/29/05 josh terrible, horrible movie. I love Nirvana. I hate Van Sant. 1 stars
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  22-Jul-2005 (R)
  DVD: 25-Oct-2005



Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant

  Michael Pitt
  Asia Argento
  Lukas Haas
  Ricky Jay
  Harmony Korine
  Nicole Vicius

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