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  Last Days Territorial Pissing About
Year: 2005
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green, Nicole Vicius, Ricky Jay, Ryan Orion, Harmony Korine, Kim Gordon, Adam Friberg, Andy Friberg, Thadeus A. Thomas, Chip Marks, Kurt Loder
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Blake (Michael Pitt) is a rock star who has never felt more alone, but for now perhaps that's the way he likes it. He spends the day wandering the forest and countryside around his mansion, muttering to himself all the while, and when he reaches a river and a waterfall he strips off and wades in. That night, he doesn't return to the house but passes the night in the woods with a small bonfire to keep him warm as he sings to the stars. The next morning Blake goes back to his home early, and doesn't wake up the hangers on who have slept in his bedrooms, preferring to occupy his time on his own. Blake isn't long for this world.

The death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 was an important event for a generation of grunge rock fans, he was their Jimi Hendrix or Sid Vicious, an icon who died too young in tragic circumstances. So is it surprising that his story, or a story like it, has been so underrepresented in fictional film or television? After all, a lot of people were shattered when he committed suicide, a lot of people who are still endlessly fascinated by his life and music. Perhaps few filmmakers think they can do the tale justice, or perhaps there's not much to add, Nick Broomfield's conspiratorial documentary Kurt and Courtney apart. Last Days seems to confirm this.

Scripted by the director Gus Van Sant, although it looks improvised, the film is one of his deliberately boring works like Gerry, or to a lesser extent the deceptively mundane but menacing Elephant. Pitt isn't explicitly called Kurt Cobain, but he is made up to resemble him closely and the whole thing is dedicated to the rocker so we can surmise that this is an attempt to depict the kind of mood that the final hours of Cobain were like. Which turn out to be almost comically pointless: Blake mopes about, mumbling dialogue that can be summed up as "Hurrr... mummurrr... hurrrr... murrr...", tries on a dress, plays with an unloaded shotgun (which we never see him fire, not even at the end), and so forth.

Any sense of what is going through Blake's mind is anyone's guess, as Pitt never gives anything away. The character may as well be a cypher for all the emotional weight that Van Sant lends him, we don't feel he is depressed, and he doesn't take any drugs that might excuse his behaviour (none that we see, at any rate). The other people in his life don't act as if there's anything wrong at all, the hangers on, including Lukas Haas and Asia Argento, don't exploit his wealth, they just don't have anything better to do than waste time in Blake's mansion. Only a record executive, played by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, arrives to make a bid to take him away from all this, an offer he turns down.

It could be the point of this exercise is to show how unspectacular Cobain's death was, as Blake comes across as more interested in macaroni cheese than making any communication with those surrounding him. Van Sant introduces characters that most other filmmakers would have left on the doorstep - a Yellow Pages representative, a couple of members of the Mormon Church - and lets them talk at length to very little dramatic effect. When we hear Blake's music it's a poor imitation of Cobain, and the burden of any fame he has to endure is curiously absent. It becomes unintentionally laughable to see Pitt very... slowly... collapse to the floor or chunter unintelligibly for the umpteenth time. If they had been Elvis Presley's last days then we could have seen him shoot a TV, but these last days amount to very little. It's as if there was no great loss here and that's unfortunate.

[The DVD is good value for fans of the film, including a deleted scene, an interview with Pitt, featurettes about the production, a trailer and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Gus Van Sant  (1952 - )

Vaguely arty American director whose films rarely seem quite as satisfying as they should. Drugstore Cowboy remains his best effort, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues undoubtedly his worst. My Own Private Idaho, To Die For, Columbine shootings-based Elephant and Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days have their fans, and Good Will Hunting was a big success, but the scene-for-scene Psycho remake must be his oddest venture. After a decade of experimentation, including desert trek oddity Gerry, he returned to the mainstream in 2008 with the award-winning biopic Milk then reverted to smaller projects once more, including biopic Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot.

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