Last Days [Celluloid Hero]
Director Gus Van Sant wanted to do a Kurt Cobain biopic. The story goes, however, that Courtney Love would sue him if he tried, because she wanted to keep creative rights to any movie about Cobain’s life. In order to work around this, Van Sant made a movie about a blonde grungy rockstar living in the Pacific Northwest who is fed up with the pressure of the music industry, but who totally isn’t Kurt Cobain.
This movie is also a part of Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy”, a group of three movies with a similar style. The dialogue is minimal, sometimes unintelligible. Scenes are shown multiple times from multiple points of view, without any indication that we’re seeing a flashback. The technique can create a bit of disorientation, so be prepared to have to focus on everything.
Van Sant uses another technique to actually make it harder to focus. The camera barely moves at times, letting characters move in and out of the shot without following the action. Other times the camera moves so slowly you barely notice until you realize that the shot that started in a living room has suddenly gone out a window into the yard. It sounds weird, but the movements are so slow your eye doesn’t quite notice the individual increments until you blink and see the whole change.
As far as the actual story…it’s pretty tough to decipher. Blake (the guy who definitely isn’t Kurt) has escaped to a huge old house deep in the woods. We follow him wandering through the forest, swimming in a stream, observing nature. There are other people in his house, calling themselves friends, but only seeming to talk to Blake when they need something (money, or music advice, or an opinion on a song). Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth has a role as a record label rep, trying to convince Blake to leave the woods and get help. The more people that try to reach him, the more withdrawn Blake becomes.
The minimal dialogue, the slow camera work, and the depressing subject matter add up to a very sad movie. The ending obviously mirrors Cobain’s end, so don’t expect a glossy finish. For the average viewer, the stylistic choices Van Sant makes may ruin this movie. If you can get through those, and if you’re a big Nirvana fan, this should be worth your time
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Last Days” gets a 7 out of 10.