An official selection in the 2005 Cannes Film festival, GUS VAN SANT'S LAST DAYS is inspired by the final hours of Kurt Cobain. The film introduces us to Blake (Michael Pitt, The Dreamers), a brilliant, but troubled musici... more »an. Success has left him in a lonely place, where livelihoods rest on his shoulders and old friends regularly tap him for money and favors. The film follows Blake through a handful of hours spent in and near his wooded home... a fugitive from his own life. DVD Features:
Music Video:"Happy Song" by Pagoda
Other:The Making Of
Outtakes:On the set of Gus Van Sant's Last Days: The Long Dolly Shot« less
This is an outstanding film, but judging by some of the other reviews here, you have to be a certain type of person to be able to appreciate it.
The film is essentially fan fiction, and the more you know about Kurt Cobain, the more you will get out of it. That said, this is a really painful, touching portrait of someone at the end of their rope, who is losing touch with reality and getting lost inside themselves. Someone unable to communicate or be heard by others, who is essentially invisible to others, on a psychic or spiritual level. "Blake" speaks in the film, but is rarely understandable, mostly muttering under his breath. Even in death the Blake character is treated carelessly by those surrounding him, and that is a recurring theme throughout the film. He is surrounded by people, but completely isolated. The only character who could possibly get through to him, Donovan (aka Krist), is the one character that Blake avoids, being determined to end things.
Blake creates an amazing song with a series of pedals (written and performed by the incredibly talented Michael Pitt, while in character!) that expresses his pain and hopelessness, but no one is around to hear it, so it amounts to shouting into the void. The use of sound, generally, in this movie is excellent; it is used to emphasise and illustrate the mental and emotional state of the protagonist, and sometimes it's ambiguous what sounds are an external part of a scene and which ones are part of an internal world. Make sure to watch in a quiet environment. Alienation, isolation, and profound, life-draining depression are sensitively and expertly depicted here. This film is also satisfyingly harsh on empty-headed, callous narcissism, so present in our society today, and responsible for so much of our pain. Not a single tear is seen to be shed by the soulless vampires that prey upon Blake through the film.
If you have any empathy whatsoever you'll probably find this film upsetting, and if you've ever had mental health problems or known someone who has, watch with caution. I burst into tears at the climax (which is beautifully understated and heartbreaking) and found myself haunted by this picture for the rest of the night after seeing it. If you need to wash away the emotional pall cast by the story (which is, for all intents and purposes, true), watch the last two items in the special features. Save the music video by Pagoda for last. It should make you smile. Many kudos to Michael Pitt for lending not only his acting chops, but his impressive musical abilities to the project.
If you tend to be a big fan of Hollywood blockbusters or popular American TV shows, you'll almost certainly be wasting your time trying to watch this. This is subtle film-making, without any cheap thrills or ham-handed emotional manipulation. If your tastes are more refined, however, this is well worth a watch.
Highly recommended, especially for music fans.
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michelle S. (Chelly10s) from W HOLLYWOOD, CA Reviewed on 11/3/2010...
This movie was odd for Gus Van Sant. It didn't tell a story, but tried to make you feel like you were getting to know this person intimately--like you were looking into "Blake"'s secret life. Sadly, I didn't feel anything but bored.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Brandon B. (brando) Reviewed on 1/21/2009...
Wow! This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I am a huge music fan and love Nirvana. After the movie was over, I still had no clue what was going on or what I had justwatched. I usually don't mind the artsy direction. This in my opinion is the WORST movie Gus Van Sant has ever directed. If you have never seen it, don't waste your time.
12 of 14 member(s) found this review helpful.
Daniel McInnis | Toledo, OH | 09/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A few weeks ago I had an interesting experience. Trying to escape my family, I decide to spend the afternoon at the theater, catching up on some of the movies I've missed so far this summer. I began with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the Brad Pitt-Angelia Jolie action/comedy, and followed that up with Gus Van Sant's latest, Last Days. Smith had shoot-outs, car chases and fight sequences galore while in Last Days, well, nothing much seemed to happen. Yet one film had me bored to tears (literally!), while the other kept me riveted to my seat. Want to guess which is which?
If you don't know the answer, I suggest a little experiment. Rent both films when they're released on DVD (Last Days comes out the 25th of October) and just try sitting through the inane, incoherent Mr. and Mrs. Smith after having just watched what I consider to be the best film of the year so far. That being said, though, I strongly recommend seeing Last Days on the big screen. So much of my appreciation of this film comes from it's photography as Blake, a thinly disguised version of Kurt Cobain (played by Michael Pitt), is swallowed up by the vast, empty space all around him. This is a film about isolation, mood, setting, not story, and that's just what's conveyed in it's telling.
Now as anyone familiar with Van Sant's work is sure to tell you, his interest in linear film-making has been waning in recent years, a welcome respite after his two most 'mainstream' films (Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester) failed to live up to the potential of his previous career best, 1991's My Own Private Idaho. And with Last Days, he's finally made his masterpiece, a film for which his two prior efforts are likely to be remembered as dry runs and little more. And as unjust as that may be, you can clearly see a progression from Gerry, a good film, to Elephant, a very good film, to Last Days, a great one and his career pinnacle, much the way as Kurosawa used Kagemusha as a tune up for Ran.
The story, in case you're unfamiliar with Cobain's life (as I was prior to seeing this movie), follows a young musician who, after having recently escaped a stint in re-hab, spends his last days wondering his palatial estate, cooking macaroni and cheese, avoiding his hanger-on 'friends,' and composing lonely, morose songs that cling to your memory long after the movie has ended. It's in these scenes that Pitt, a singer himself, proves that he was the ONLY choice for the role. Often under-appreciated (in The Dreamers and Hedwig & the Angry Inch) or overshadowed (particularly by Ryan Gosling's tour-de-force performance in Murder by Numbers), Pitt's finally allowed to shoulder a feature film and proves himself worthy of comparisons to James Dean and River Phoenix.
If you're skeptical of that statement, just watch the way Pitt is able to convey so much through body posturing alone. His eyes obscured behind his greasy, golden locks for much of the film (with the exception of one particular scene where he's allowed to stare into the camera for seemingly an eternity), and his dialogue reduced to little more than incoherent mumbling, he still somehow manages to let us into the soul of the character. He's on screen for almost the entirety of the film and rarely shares a scene with any of his co-stars, but despite all these obstacles is still able to flesh out one of the best performances of this or any other year.
Of course, much hinges on your opinion of Cobain and his music, though you needn't been a Nirvana junkie to appreciate it. In fact, it wasn't until after seeing this movie that I bought my first CD of his, and in the few weeks since I've managed to consume almost a half dozen books on his life. It takes a rare movie to provoke such an insatiable curiosity in me, an experience which makes this film (oddly enough) incredibly life-affairing."
Marc A. Coignard | Denver, CO United States | 11/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found Last Days to be a far better film than most critics and audiences seem to have found it. Not only was it watchable, despite being very slow, it was at times very funny and it was certainly a wonderful alternative to the cliche world of Rock and Roll bio-pickes. Van Sant doesn't for one second try to explain or over-indulge the audience with a sorrowful tale of one man's inability to cope with this fame. This is refreshing to me. Van Sant doesn't give us a cookie-cutter mold of what a film about a popular icon is supposed to be, so I was not sure what to expect, which helped me enjoy this film. Many are put off by the mumbling and incoherent rants of the lead character Blake played by Michael Pitt, but I found them to be funny, especially when he's attempting to communicate with a Yellow Book salesman who has him confused with a business owner. Its a slice of life-before-death film, and fans of Cobain should be warned about what NOT to expect. This is not a biopic, nor was it ever intended to be one. If anything, Van Sant is simply guessing what he belives it must have been like for the last day(s) of a man who has decided to kill himself. Visually the film was stunning, and Van Sant seems to be an expert at using the silence between people in order to emphasise natural noises, which gave me a nice sense of calm in watching the film, another reason why the movie was easy to watch. It was never hurried, and its shooting perfectly matched the script's and character's pacing.
I find it very strange that so many people called Gus Van Sant's previous film Elephant a masterpiece and this one is being called a terrible film. They are shot the exact same way, and the tone and mood of both films are VERY similar. I thought Elephant's subject matter (a school shooting) wasn't appropriate for this style of film making where the audience is put down in a spot to merely observe events happening. Last Days, on the other hand, is more fitting. No matter how tragic Cobain's death was, I find it hard to compare the suicide of a rock star to the murder of several innocent school kids. If anything, Last Days gives us more to watch, as we actually have a character worth paying some attention to. True, Blake doesn't do much at all, but when he is spoken to by people, or when he's got a hunting cap on and creeping around his house with a rifle as if he was a hunter stalking prey, its easier to watch than a bunch of kids walking around for an hour, then have two other kids shoot them for half an our, which, basically, is what happened in Elephant. The character in Last Days may not be too in-depth, but at least there is a character worth caring about.
A film like this also shows the importance of reading reviews before viewing. Most people get the film thinking, "Oh, its about Kurt Cobain. I like Nirvana, so I'll like this movie" without bothering to find out what makes this film so significant. This is not a movie about Kurt Cobain. This is not a movie about the tragic fall of a rock star. Really, its not a movie about much of anything, except a guy who walks around in a drug-induced hypnotic state shortly before he kills himself. Buyer beware. At any rate, I liked it."
Self-Indulgence or Art -- Let's Split The Difference
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 09/24/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Remember the days when Gus Van Sant made pictures with actual dialogue? I do. I remember them fondly. "Drugstore Cowboy" is a movie I fell in love when I saw it in the theater, it still has a place in my heart. "My Own Private Idaho", while deeply flawed, was so ambitious. And "To Die For" is a sublime, sly comedy.
I think it's fair to say that Van Sant has been on a minimalist streak in recent years: minimal dialogue, minimal plot, minimal action, minimal narrative drive. His last three pictures were characterized by all this and filmed in loooong, stagnant shots. There was "Gerry", then "Elephant" and now "Last Days".
I will never criticize a filmmaker for working outside the mainstream and for developing a unique visual perspective. But it is easy for me to see why so many people hate these movies! But it's also easy for me to see why some people hold them in such high regard. And I won't say either group is wrong. With these films, it is largely a matter of taste. "Gerry", to me, was a crashing bore and an utter failure. "Elephant", I'm surprised to say, was a movie I found tremendous. And "Last Days"? I guess I'd split the difference. While it didn't have the emotional resonance of "Elephant", it wasn't nearly as tedious as "Gerry".
But I wouldn't necessarily recommend any of these films to the "average" movie goer. To most mainstream audiences--"different" is not a good thing. That's why Van Sant's "Good Will Hunting" is his most popular work--it's a genial crowd pleaser. Only seek out "Last Days" if you know what you're getting into--and don't come to get any insight into Kurt Cobain (it's not a biography).
Michael Pitt is a talented young actor, and I admire his work here. Yet he is also a dynamic performer--and that's what you'll miss. Catch him in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch", "The Dreamers", and "Bully". This guy wants to be an actor, not a star--and I suppose, in some ways, that made him a good choice for "Last Days".
Some say Van Sant's last three pictures have been self-indulgent. Maybe so, but maybe that's not always a bad thing. KGHarris, 9/06."
Long camera shots and long scenes of nothing, Hey Gus, we ge
Jason Shawn | Manassas, VA United States | 12/04/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"From Smother Magazine smother.net:
It's obvious that this movie is supposed to follow Kurt Cobain's last moments on Earth before he commits suicide. What's not obvious is how badly this movie views. While I'm all for creative art films and I've liked many that most find obnoxious or outright boring, I can't stand movies that forget that we're supposed to be entertained. What director Gus Van Sant ("Elephant", "Good Will Hunting", "Drugstore Cowboy") does well is attach the state of loneliness, depression, anxiety, and societal indifference that Kurt must have been going through in his last moments. And certainly that would make this movie special-if it hadn't been dragged out for the entire movie. There's a lack of anything really going on. We watch as he swims in a stream in the opening, then makes a campfire, and then in the morning wanders back to his big house. And just as isolated as he indeed is after his escape from the detoxification center so is the audience. You sit there aimlessly watching a main character be aimless, knowing and anticipating the conclusion, but bored in the wait. Perhaps that's the irony isn't it? Our heroes can just be boring dorks that seem oh so majestic when the media props them up but when we peel back the layers we expose them for the sorry excuse that they truly are. It's just a shame that you have to sit through a movie this intensely boring to figure it out."
Give it a chance - you might be surprised
Tom H | Sydney, Australia | 08/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't expect to like this film given the plethora of bad reviews and held off watching it for a while. During the opening sequence where 'Kurt' (let's not pretend he's meant to be anyone else) staggers inexplicably through the woods I started to have my doubts but wasn't too concerned given I had readied myself for a potential dud. Yet as the film film progressed I became less and less concerned with the reasoning behind the unfolding events and started to simply 'feel' the tone of the film and where GVS was coming from in his interpretation of a modern tragedy. Essentially the only narrative in this film is that Cobain (given the name Blake in this) had left this earth before he pulled the trigger, it doesn't seek to document the potential real life sequence of events, it is simply a rumination and in my view a beautifully realised one to the point where I considered it a work of art. If you aren't interested or indifferent to Cobain then I'm not sure how you could enjoy this film because it demands a great degree of understanding and reverance for it's subject in order to appreciate what Van Sant is trying to communicate with it. The sequences are long, mostly without dialogue and with very minimal action involved (though beautifully shot); perhaps that was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much, it was so different from the normal 'busy' style of most film and television. I can only speak for myself in saying that had I listened to the naysayers and avoided it altogether I would have deprived myself of a great film experience."