If you are not
a Nirvana fan, will Gus Van Sant's new film, Last Days, matter to
Yes it will.
Days, screened at the 58th Cannes Film Festival in May, was inspired
by the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, all immediate references
to the spiritual leader of the grunge movement, have been stripped
expect to hear any famous Nirvana songs. There aren't any. In
fact, the film begins with Hildegard Westerkamp's musique concrete
composition, Doors of Perception, which is the furthest thing
away from Smells Like Teen Spirit.
see Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), as
Blake, the film's protagonist, wandering through a dense forest,
mumbling to himself, and then undressing for a swim when he comes
to a river. It sets the dreamy, isolationist, improvisational
tone of the film. In this first part, the film is quiet and reflective,
just long tracking shots of Blake walking, his isolation completed
by the eerie ambiance of nature.
returns home. There are hangers-on who are living in his home.
Blake avoids them but they still insist on his attention, for
example, when they need money or advice on a song. We see him
watching the video of Boyz II Men's On Bended Knee, which ironically
comments on his relationship with Courtney Love and which distances
us further from Nirvana music. He wears a dress (now that's a
clear Kurt reference) and he patiently listens to a Yellow Pages
salesman while still in it. He makes an ironic comment here when
he answers a question to how successful his business has been
after advertising: "Success is subjective."
calls him and grumbles that he is abandoning them in mid-tour.
A record company executive (played by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon,
whose husband, Thurston Moore, is the film's Music Consultant)
visits to advise him on his career. He goes to a rock club where
he again fails to keep people away from him.
is alone in his green house, where he puts an end to his life.
Van Sant shows his ghost climbing out from his dead body and going
away. Last Days is a very faithful haunting account of a personality
who is so sensitive that he cannot keep people away from invading
his psyche. Blake's constant mumbling as he walks around is an
apt picture of a man's fevered brain, like a computer nervously
This is Van
Sant's most successful in the trilogy of experimental features,
if you include Gerry (2002) and Elephant (2003). All three films
have a stream-of-consciousness element and all three are drawn
from real life events. Each tries to imagine the events that led
to the eventual horror.
As Van Sant said: "I guess we just sort of imagined things. We
didn't have that much information, but for what came out through
the popular media." If Elephant showed how inner violence can
be directed against people outside, Last Days shows how external
violence (through the invasion of privacy) can implode in the
individual. These films are a commentary of the soul-destroying
times we live in, from the gun culture of Elephant to the materialistic
definition of success in this world.
This is required
reviewing for every potential rock star who is on the verge of
success. As the Blake character says in the film: "Success is