This review is not about Kurt Cobain
The writer trying to explain Last Days to a friend:
Writer: So I watched Last Days, the new Kurt Cobain film by director Gus Van Sant that isn t about Kurt Cobain but makes references to Kurt Cobain through Michael Pitt s character, Blake, without telling the story of Kurt Cobain s last hours but alluding to the fact that what happens to Blake in the film might have been similar to what had happened to Kurt had Kurt and Blake been the same character or had Pitt s band Pagoda been Nirvana, or had Gus Van Sant who also wrote the script been a fly on the wall of the house in Seattle in which Kurt spent his Last Days around friends but not with them, trying to make music that sounds like the music Blake, or actually Michael Pitt, made in the film, beautiful music, while his friends, or where they band members, gallivanted about just outside Kurt s, I mean Blake s drug induced delusional realm, though you never see him actually smoke, huff, snort or inject, any substance into his body, but he must have taken something since that is the only explanation as to why ten minutes into the film you would sit through, I mean he would sit through, actually we all sat through, the entire Boyz II Men music video for On Bended Knee.
Friend: What the hell are you talking about?
This is what will undoubtedly happen when you watch the film for yourself and try to explain it to friends, because you will inevitably watch it, and you will also inevitably try to explain it to friends. Last Days is indeed beautiful film about a grungy [pun intended] subject. The problem arises in its explanation. How do you explain with words, a film with such little dialogue that you could easily have watched it with the theater sound muted. A film that resists its artistic genre, opting instead to be more like a painting, a somewhat abstract yet realist painting along the lines of what the bastard child of Chuck Close and Jackson Pollock might produce [referrence to buggery censored]. How do you confine these visual and visceral images you have witnessed to words displayed on paper, heard in audio, or communicated digitally as you are receiving it now, without sounding like trite gallery staff? I m not sure.
The writer trying to explain Last Days to Pixelsurgeon:
Writer: In the Last Days film that features Lukas Haas as Luke, Asia Argento as Asia, Scott Green as Scott, and Nicole Vicius as well you get the picture by now, the main character, Blake, played by no, not Blake anything, Michael Pitt, seems troubled about something. He wallows in this something that’s obviously miring him down and he tries to alleviate the pain, sorrow, heartache, disappointment, with drugs. His friends are concerned but not overly so, evidenced by them leaving Blake, possibly overdosed, alone in the house to go off and- well you don t really know where they go or what they do, but they come back drunk. Anyway, his off-screen girlfriend is also concerned, so much so that she hires a private investigator, Ricky Jay, to find him. She hasn t seen Blake in a long time. During his friends absence he is visited by his mother, or a much older sister, or maybe she was some older female relative or whatever matriarchal figure this character is supposed to represent, and offers him an out which he does not take. He s not returning calls from the band s manager about his upcoming tour dates. His friends, or once again were they band members, don t let on that he s actually there with them. And then –
Writer: Why what?
Pixelsurgeon: Why don t they just say he s there?
Writer: It doesn t matter why. Don’t worry, your readers will get it when they see the film.
That s another problem with this film that s not about Kurt Cobain. If you aren t privy to the existence of the conspiracies surrounding Kurt Cobain s death, or why there would exist a movie about him that isn t about him, if you weren t sitting in the theater with all of this background Kurt Cobain knowledge, then you would probably not be willing to sit through to the end of this film artist s interpretation of all the voyeuristic information you had collected in nineteen-ninety-four when Cobain s career peaked, then unexpectedly came to an end. I assume that was what happened to the couple that left halfway through the film, just before a climax usually happens in a film but didn t in this one. I imagined the guy asking his girlfriend, or her asking him I thought you said this film was about Kurt Cobain?
The writer trying to explain Last Days to himself:
Writer: Why really did I go to see this film? Well I m not sure. It could have been because of Elephant, the only other Van Sant film I ve seen, or because of Van Sant s notoriety, or the banal reviews I read or the hype. But such things never usually do much to motivate me. Then was it because I am a Nirvana fan that wanted to see how the lead singer of my favorite band had offed himself? Oh wait, I’m not a Nirvana fan, and if I were I’d have been sorry because that subject wasn t dealt with in this the film that isn t about the lead singer of Nirvana. Then why did I go? Did I go just to say Last Days? Yeah, I saw it. And why did I like it so much? The cute butt shot of Nicole Vicius, the one I d have missed had I blinked? The music? The slightly dark and somewhat sarcastic humor? If I hadn t known, as the disclaimer clearly stated after all the credits had rolled off screen, that though this film was inspired by Kurt Cobain it was not about him, would I have cared for the Blake character and hated his friends as much? Would I have enjoyed the play on scene sequence? Would I have sat out Van Sant s sometimes uncomfortably long your-are-waiting-for-something-to-happen-but-nothing-will shots?
The voice in his head: Yes.
I can’t really explain what this film is about, or what happens in it, or what makes it a must see. But that doesn’t mean it’s something you should miss. On the contrary, if I scatter brained review writer, were able to convert the film into a few bites of easily digestible prose then it would probably be a film you would want to avoid at all costs. Last Days, the beautiful yet haunting film about nothing and no one, but that was inspired by the real events surrounding Kurt Cobain’s death is worth the ninety-seven minutes it will take for you to realize that it took ninety-seven minutes to reach a conclusion that you knew was coming all along.
Go see it. Or would you rather me continue my attempts at telling you why?
Last Days (2005)
Dir. Gus Van Sant
Stars: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green