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6 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Last Days
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by Mel Valentin

"Primarily for cineastes and Nirvana/Kurt Cobain fans."
4 stars

"Last Days," Gus Van Santís fictional (and fictionalized) exploration of a drugged-out, isolated, alienated, and emotionally damaged rock starís (read: Kurt Cobainís) mental and physical disintegration in the last days before his death, is the kind of minimalist, modernist-influenced film that rarely gets made by independent filmmakers any more. Van Sant's oblique, elliptical, observational approach to character and plot (what little there is) means "Last Days" will be seen and appreciated by a limited subset of moviegoers, primarily viewers familiar with and appreciative of European art cinema, e.g., Michelangelo Antonioniís 1960s existential dramas ("La Notte," "L'Eclisse," "Il Deserto rosso," "Blow-Up," "The Passenger") or Wong-Kar Wai's contemporary adaptations of modernist forms ("Chungking Express," "In the Mood for Love"), and music fans who still hold Kurt Cobainís work as a singer/songwriter and frontman for Nirvana in high esteem (although psychological insight is in short supply and none of Cobainís music appears in the film).

As Last Days opens, Blake (Michael Pitt, credible if not fully persuasive in a difficult, introspective role), a rock star back from a stint in rehab (Blake still wears a hospital-provided wristband), wanders aimlessly in the heavily wooded area surrounding his estate, first bathing in a cold stream, returning home to retrieve a hidden stash of drugs (we never see him shoot up or otherwise take drugs) while his hangers-on sleep the day away in an upstairs bedroom. As the drug (heroin) takes hold, Blake nods in and out of consciousness, sometimes falling to the ground, often stumbling or teetering on the verge of losing balance, mumbling to himself (physical behavior typical of heroin users). Time slips forwards, backwards, sometimes looping back on itself (which may suggest that Blake is caught in a purgatory of his own making).

As the days and nights slip into one another, Blakeís actions consist primarily of evading family, friends, bandmates, agents, and a private eye hired by his wife to track him down (the PI expends little effort into finding Blakeís whereabouts, concerned more with sharing eccentric stories with his driver). For Blake, relationships are inextricably tied to obligations and responsibilities, and his fragile ego is unable and incapable of handling either. Only his mother (Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth) seems to show genuine concern for him, but errs too, by reminding him of his daughter (and thus, his obligations) and arguing that his drug-fuelled, hermit-like existence will make him a "rock-star clichť." (Upon hearing of his death, Cobain's real-life mother apparently made a similar statement to the effect that Cobain had just joined the [expletive deleted], dead-at-27 rock-star club which includes Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and Jim Morrison of The Doors). Blake's hangers-on, Scott (Scott Green) and Luke (Lucas Haas) share the sprawling, unkempt house with Blake, but nothing more. They seem motivated solely by their desire to freeload or to obtain an ďinĒ into the music world.

Van Sant, taking an oblique, tangential approach to narrative, includes a handful of seemingly disparate, disconnected events and scenes that, when pulled together interpretatively, come tantalizingly close to offering some insight into Blakeís inner state. Van Sant utilizes a film style that favors long and medium static shots (with the occasional Steadicam shot), rarely using close ups (except for the rare instance when he wants to emphasize the emotion in a particular scene). Van Santís oblique, non-traditional film style works through and frustration, playing against audience expectations, expectations developed through watching mainstream, conventional films. Narratively, Van Sant eschews dialogue scenes that make Blakeís inner state transparent (outside of chaotic, often nonsensical rumblings). By also avoiding in-text explanations for Blakeís behavior or for his deteriorated psychological state, Van Sant clearly makes a choice that runs counter to the typically reductive answer found in psychological or character-driven dramas (i.e., childhood trauma or dysfunctional family relationships, both of which Kurt Cobain actually had or experienced directly).

Van Sant avoids showing Blakeís suicide or the direct, causal events that lead, at least in traditional film (and in the real-world), to the life-negating decision to commit suicide. Van Sant doesnít foreground a specific event or experience, or even set of experiences, that inexorably lead to Blakeís death (he only hints at Blakeís fragile ego and antagonism toward fame and celebrity). Ultimately, Van Santís film style and narrative approach also means that audiences expecting clear turning points, revelations, and reversals, all of which culminate in a dramatic payoff (and a moment of catharsis) will be seriously frustrated and find Last Days a difficult, torturous film to sit through.

In short, Van Sant prefers to observe events from a clinical distance, ask the odd question about character motivation, and leave the mystery of human personality and individual choice for the audience to decipher. Before then, however, Van Sant offers a hint in Blakeís last song, a mournful, anguished cry (written by Michael Pitt) meant to articulate Blakeís despair and estrangement from the world and people around him. But this last song might be also meant to indicate Blake and, by extension Cobainís, despair at losing his ability to write music (a common concern among artists). If so, itís the closest Van Sant allows us to Blake/Cobainís inner state in the moments before his death.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12289&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/04/05 19:50:16
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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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