Last Days (2005)

ImageLast Days (2005)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writer: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento

Runtime: 97 minutes

Rating: 57% Fresh

Views: 1st Viewing

Last Days was Gus Van Sant’s last (and most puzzling) entry into his “Death trilogy“, following Gerry and the Palme d’Or winner ElephantLast Days is a semi-true story that follows the last few days in the life of a Kurt Cobain-esque rock star.  In reality, Gus Van Sant and Cobain’s widow Courtney Love had decided that making an actual biopic about the Nirvana frontman would be far too painful for Kurt’s family and widow.  Van Sant decided instead to make the film semi-autobiographical, and mostly fictionalized (though, the similarities are most definitely there).  We follow Blake (Michael Pitt) as he stumbles through the woods one early morning, mumbling to himself and seeming generally disconnected from reality and from himself.  Blake eventually makes his way to a mansion (presumably his), where he creeps around the house and discovers that his bandmates and friends are all crashing at the house, as per usual.  Blake has an interaction with a door-to-door Yellowpages representative, and later tries secluding himself from his friends in his own home.  After attempting to help a bandmate with a new song, going to a club late at night, and playing one last song in the woods, the rockstar’s body is found by a worker early the next morning.

Gus Van Sant’s Last Days is a very curious film, and one can’t help but think that this was a huge missed opportunity for the filmmaker, and for a Kurt Cobain bio-pic.  We spend almost the entire film following a wordless Blake around the woods, around his dilapidated (or nearly) mansion, and then around a club.  The director’s camera is fluid and incredible to watch follow characters as they live out their everyday lives (as with his previous film, Elephant), but it simply drags on for much longer than it should.  The movie almost seems directionless at some points, and at 97 minutes long is a chore to get through because of these long periods of time where literally nothing happens.

Michael Pitt’s Blake looks the part of Kurt Cobain, and for what he’s given to work with seems to do a phenomenal job portraying a rockstar with the whole world behind him.  Much like Kurt ImageCobain, this is a broken, hurt man who just doesn’t want or know what to do with the superstardom that he has unfortunately acquired.  Last Days doesn’t seem to fit in with the Death trilogy, simply because it seems even more disconnected that the previous two films (where Gerry was easily the standout).  The very end of the film is what kills any attempt to take Last Days seriously as a piece of art.  We see Blake’s soul climb out of his body, and climb up to the “nirvana” above him.  It feels tacked on, and far too heavy-handed, which fits in perfectly with Elephant.  Overall, Last Days is a curious film, but unfortunately not a good one.  A definite miss for Van Sant, who many people claim to be a great modern filmmaker.  5/10.

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