Fri August 5, 2005
A life not worth living.
By John DeSando, WCBE's
I doubt if on the day in 1994 when Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, ended his life with a shotgun to the head, anyone saw his soul rise toward heaven, as Gus Van Sant depicts in Last Days, his recent foray into the interpretation of cultural phenomena that he also featured in Elephant.
As I watched the last days of drugged out ?rock and roll cliche? Blake (Michael Pitt), patterned after Cobain, I felt Van Sant once again captured the ennui and misdirection of unusual people destined to be famous as he did for the high school assassins in Elephant. Determinism rules: From the opening sequence where he is cleansed by a waterfall to the final heaven-bound image, I never thought Blake could do anything to liberate his spirit other than commit suicide, a state of being in rock and roll all too common, especially for those addicted to heroin.
At any rate, Van Sant is not interested in providing rationale or template, just in showing states of psychic turmoil that are inscrutable, such as Coppola did for Kurtz in Apocalypse Now or Herzog for Aguirre in Der Zorn Godes.
It is not always fun to sit through the numerous long takes of Blake doing almost nothing but common activities such as making macaroni and cheese. Yet if Van Sant wants us to know why life is not worth living for this lost soul, then he succeeds by showing how isolated and mundane Blake?s life actually was at the end. If Van Sant wants to show that great genius has great demands, he succeeds by showing the artist?s flawed human nature trying to deal with fame.
The big old house where the band is hiding is an apt metaphor for the ragged, decaying, useless band that can?t even talk straight. In fact, there is little dialogue, which is usually mumbled or so terse as to be negligible. These last days will be my last days watching another icon fall into a non-returnable funk.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com