Last Days

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Review byMatthew Turner31/08/2005

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

I pity anybody who goes to see Last Days expecting a biopic about the last days of Kurt Cobain – it’s true that the film is loosely based on the Nirvana frontman’s final few days, but the film itself couldn’t be further from a conventional biopic. Instead, Van Sant continues his experiments with the directorial style that worked so brilliantly in his two previous films, the under-rated Gerry and the award-winning Elephant.

The Story

Michael Pitt plays Blake, a reclusive Kurt Cobain-alike rock star who has retreated to a rural hideaway in the hope of being left alone. There isn’t much plot – he talks to a Yellow Pages salesman (Thadeus A. Thomas), avoids the various hangers-on at his house (including Lukas Haas and Asia Argento), has an amusing conversation with a pair of visiting Mormon twins (Adam and Andy Friberg), wanders around in the woods, dodges a private eye (Ricky Jay), nips into town to attend a concert incognito, plays some music and eventually shoots himself. And that’s basically it.

The Bad

Whilst it may sound like a vaguely coherent plot, there’s very little dialogue and Van Sant shoots each scene in long, single takes, frequently in long shot. In one typical scene, we get to watch Blake play the guitar for five minutes – but from outside the house, looking through a window that is some distance away.

It would be churlish and somewhat facetious to say that by the end of the film you’ll sympathise with Blake because you’ll want to kill yourself too, but you do find yourself wondering if maybe that was the intention.

The Good

None of the actors really have all that much to do but Pitt holds the film together –such as it is- with an impressive physical performance. You hardly ever see his face, thanks to his ever-present floppy fringe, but you can’t take your eyes off him, hoping that he’ll do or say something that will shed some light on his behaviour. Unfortunately, the style of the film never really pays off in any meaningful way and it’s hard to know what Van Sant is trying to say with the film.

The Conclusion

In short, Last Days is something of a disappointment and a hard film to recommend without first warning you what you’re letting yourself in for. Hardcore Van Sant devotees (and fans of Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr – one of Van Sant’s inspirations) will almost certainly get more out of this than casual viewers but you’ll most likely find yourself hoping that Van Sant returns to a more conventional style next time round.

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Last Days
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Content updated: 01/03/2020 00:02

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