Last Days Reviews
Here?s where it all goes horribly wrong. The DVD cover describes the film as ?Brilliant? and ?A Modern Masterpiece?, strangely I can?t identify with either of these descriptions. Unlike (I?m sure) many, I was utterly bored by the whole film, the whole thing was a huge disappointment to me.
I can?t quite work out how this was an award winning film, honestly I think I would have had more fun watching paint dry.
I definitely feel like I?m missing something here!!!
A typically ethereally quiet drama, this film underplays its soundtrack, which, upon being played upon, delivers on some dynamic, yet consistently decent (Well, Michael Pitt's "The Day" is some nonsense) tunes and compositions that, on top of being aesthetically engaging, help in defining to tone of this very independent and abstractionist drama. Visual style is also a commendable, more recurrent aristic touch, for although Harris Savides' cinematography, while not quite as distinguished as it was in something like "Elephant", often gets to be flat with coloration and lighting, when it really shines on through, it all but immerses by celebrating distinguished environments and imagery. Just as it has throughout the "Death Trilogy", when style works in the context of substance, it's because of Gus Van Sant's directorial thoughtfulness, which is generally seriously detrimental to the cold final product, but with genuinely effective occasions that are near-hypnotic in their drawing on the heart of this minimalist drama. A loose interpretation of Kurt Cobain's falling into mental instability and eventually to death supposedly by his own hand, this film's subject matter is executed in a manner so thinned down that the final product borders on plotless, but there is a narrative, at least on paper, it's intriguing, with thematic and dramatic value as an intimate human portrait. What most endears you to the human depths of this film more than the storytelling is, of course, the acting, at least that of leading man Michael Pitt, whose performance isn't written too much less thinly than those of Pitt's peers, but is more challenging, crafting a role of a mentally unstable celebrity brought to a breaking point by pressure and addiction that Pitt sells every step of the way by nailing an awkward intensity, punctuated by some powerful, subtle dramatic notes that define the dramatic highlights of this generally flat opus. If the film aims to be subtle, I would at least hope that it would be as inspired as Pitt's performance, and yet, that's not to say that the final product is as unnerving as its predecessors, being a sloppy affair whose highlights shine brightly enough for the final product to all but achieve decency. Still, in the end, this is yet more misguided artistic ambition from Van Sant, and it viciously betrays worthy subject matter whose well is still admittedly limited by its own right.
As I said, this film's story concept is pretty interesting, but it's not as though it's substantially less minimalist than its naturalist interpretation, being set within a relatively brief time frame and a relatively light scale as a character study whose conceptually minimalism doesn't even leave all that much room for exposition. Well, perhaps the film shouldn't be quite as underdeveloped as it ultimately is, for Gus Van Sant, as screenwriter, follows the tradition for the supposedly humanly intimate "Death Trilogy" of abandoning immediate character development and making the drama's expository value all the more frustrating by paying very, very little attention to gradual characterization within all of the aimless meditations. Really, this film's storytelling doesn't pay much attention to anything of substance, because as if the subject matter itself isn't thin enough, there's hardly any narrative focus to storytelling that ultimately places style over substance. I guess I'd be a little more willing to accept this overstylization if the style wasn't questionable enough to begin with, thriving on ethereal meditations on thematic meanderings, if not pure nothingness, until the film falls flat thematically and dramatically. Of course, if Van Sant does settle down the bloated overplay of his artistic license as a storyteller, he still never quite gets past all of the dragging, because even though the film only runs about 96 minutes, considering that substance is so thin, filler goes padded out to the point of an aimlessness which makes it about as difficult for viewers to focus on the direction of this drama as the narrative itself, while stiffening pacing that is ultimately all but brought to a halt by a cripplingly cold atmosphere. As if Van Sant doesn't shake momentum enough as screenwriter, as director, he really slows things down with a thoughtfulness that so very rarely has anything to draw upon with all of its subtlety, which is therefore predominantly nothing more than tediously dry and empty, and when Van Sant does pick up something to his directorial atmosphere, it's typically a sense of pretense. I don't know if the film feels as pretentious as "Gerry" or "Elephant", and that might be what makes the final product relatively superior, but this overblown artistic expression is still pretty demanding of your respect, while doing only so much to earn it, betraying potential, no matter how limited, with a questionably overwrought and tedious style that bores much more than it aesthetically impresses.
Once the days run out, the final product finds itself driven by a fair soundtrack, handsome visual style, and highlights to direction and acting - especially by worthy leading man Michael Pitt - to the brink of decency, ultimately lost in the midst of natural shortcomings to reasonably worthy subject matter which is further thinned out by the developmental emptiness, unfocused storytelling, exhausting overstylization, aimless dragging and tediously cold, if not pretentious atmosphere which render Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" a fittingly misguided and mediocre conclusion to the "Death Trilogy".
2.25/5 - Mediocre
Michael Pitt gives an excellent performance. EXCELLENT. And it's also a great tribute to Kurt Cobain whom I hold deeply in my heart.
There are vitually no real dialogue that lasts over 4 minutes. It's mainly a series of mumbling and unintelligible words from Blake (which ultimately emphasize Blake's condition). But then again, I loved sitting back and watching Blake slowly evolve, doing strange things that foreshadowed his eventual death.
Okay I also won't hide the fact that it's quite lengthy but you can last 1h37 minutes, trust me (especially if you've seen The Aura or LOTR or some other lengthy movie), because ultimately we all await the end with never-ending patience. And even if the ending is quite mediocre, it was subjective; hence I could make of it what I thought (based solely on what I saw and the facts).
And before I go, if ever you rent this, keep a close watch (more like ear) to the sounds. Because even if there's no concrete dialogue, the sounds are sharp and exact. A wooden door opening, a fire crackling, a river flowing...
I strongly recommend to fans of KC, drama and unconventional films. Probably a cult classic.
The scene where he picks up a guitar and plays (Death to Birth, a song by Pagoda, Michael Pitt's band) is incredibly moving and crucial to the film: it serves both to remind the audience of how talented this man truly is and as his swan song, his farewell.
Some scenes don't fully work, and we spend either too little time with Blake's friends or too much (as they are not developped at all) but the film is nonetheless a desolate, deppressing and organic work of art. Cobain fans might bitch about some of the inaccuracies (as if it matters, this is Blake after all) but this is quite a moving experience.