Last DaysMay 13, 2005
A Seattle-set rock & roll drama about a musician whose life and career is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain's.
Release Year: 2005
Rating: 5.7/10 (11,877 voted)
Critic's Score: 67/100
Gus Van Sant
Stars: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento
Introspective artist Blake is buckling under the weight of fame, professional obligations and a mounting feeling of isolation. Dwarfed by towering trees, Blake slowly makes his way through dense woods. He scrambles down an embankment to a fresh spring and undresses for a short swim. The next morning he returns to his house, an elegant, if neglected, stone mansion. Many people are looking for Blake–his friends, his managers and record label, even a private detective–but he does not want to be found. In the haze of his final hours, Blake will spend most his time by himself. He avoids the people who are living in his house, who approach him only when they want something, be it money or help with a song. He hides from one concerned friend and turns away another. He visits politely with a stranger from the Yellow Pages sales department, and he ducks into an underground rock club. He wanders through the woods and he plays a new song…
Scott Patrick Green
(as Scott Green)
Guy in Club
Band in Club
(as The Hermitt)
Elder Friberg #1
Elder Friberg #2
Thadeus A. Thomas
Yellow Book Salesman
Rock and roll will never die.
Release Date: 13 May 2005
Filming Locations: Garrison, New York, USA
Opening Weekend: $86,556
(24 July 2005)
(28 August 2005)
(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)
Did You Know?
The twins who play the Mormons answered a casting call for the movie in Aberdeen, Washington. They were the only people selected.
One of the LDS missionaries that visits the house is wearing a light blue shirt. LDS missionaries are only permitted to wear non-decorative white shirts with dark pants/suits, and a conservative tie. The missionaries also carried no pamphlets, visual aids, appointment books, or their own complete sets of scriptures, which is highly unlikely for door-to-door proselytizing.
Do you say, "I'm sorry, that I'm a rock & roll cliche?"
"It's a long lonely journey from death to birth:" Gus Van Sant's rock epiphany
Not everyone will love "Last Days." Nonetheless it concludes a
minimalist trilogy that does more to build Gus Van Sant's cred as a
serious and original filmmaker than anything since "Drugstore Cowboy"
and "My Own Private Idaho." And in its way it's every bit as good as
its predecessors, "Gerry" and "Elephant," and like them is
HBO-sponsored and exquisitely filmed in a boxlike and claustrophobic
small format. The irony is that this career-making role for the young
Michael Pitt that "Last Days" contains is one in which he only mumbles
and hardly speaks. But he embodies and lives and becomes his role as
few actors you will see this year have done. He goes to a dangerous and
disturbing place. River Phoenix might have taken the part, but maybe
it's a good thing for him he never did.
Pitt channels the dying spirit of Kurt Cobain as he was, isolated in a
big house, avoided by people there and avoiding them and almost
everyone who came looking or called. Once he picks up the phone when
his producer is calling and he listens, but never speaks. Blake (Pitt's
character's name) is a shaky, peripatetic Howard Hughes, who goes
native in the first sequence, wandering in a daze, walking into the
woods, bathing in a river, spending the night by a bonfire of sticks.
The mumbling is eerie, it's eavesdropping without insight for us. As he
returns to the house, stumbles about, prepares makeshift meals in the
kitchen, puts on a dress and brandishes a shotgun, the lack of human
interaction brings home as no dialogue-written scenes ever could how
isolated and mad he has become.
Since "Last Days" is largely a mood piece — a splendidly original,
dreamlike one — setting is crucial and the old stone house with its
crumbling, paint-peeling walls and mess and sound equipment and
instruments and paintings, is a major player, so well represented in
the elegant, original cinematography of Harris Sayides that it
resembles no place else you've ever been. There are three or four other
people in the house — the action's so chaotic and haphazard you may
not quite know who or how many. One's clearly "Asia," Asia Argento, and
she's sleeping with "Scott," Scott Green, and there's "Luke," Lucas
Haas, tall and gangly in Coke-bottle glasses. Blake sneaks up on Asia
and Scott with a shotgun when they're in bed together sleeping.
Typically, nothing happens. He doesn't shoot, and they don't notice
him. They and other people go out to and return from nightly revels.
Blake is just there.
As in "Elephant" Van Sant's approach is neutral. He does not analyze or
explain or judge, and the actors are free to improvise and be
themselves. Blake's respected because it's his house, but he's also a
kook. Random visitors who're let inside are grotesque and comic: first
it's dorky but cute twin Mormon "Elders," then a large well-spoken
black man selling a renewal of a Yellow Pages ad from the year before.
"How's your day been so far?" he asks as an opener. "Uh .it's another
day ." mumbles Blake. He's cooperative in a rote sort of way but
there's little indication he knows what he's talking about. There's a
detective and a young man who once knew Blake, who escapes them and
other people by running outside to the woods again. These two are
neither sinister nor funny: they just are. They're just interlopers,
like everybody else, into Blake's lost world.
The method in this trilogy has in common that it requires quiet
acceptance of the proceedings; that if you give yourself up to its
sometimes real time sequences (especially in "Gerry," where Van Sant
says they're influenced by Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr), they're
hypnotic and special, and if you don't, they're just irritating and
boring. The experience requires a lot from the viewer. It's hard to
describe a movie in which little happens. Nothing turns out to be quite
a lot and you might remember that James Joyce wrote a long detailed
novel about the events in the life of a little man in a single day in
Dublin. It's certainly important that Pitt is deeply in character. If
his acting were mannered or theatrical or unfelt, nothing would work.
When he finally sings one song, a plangent cry of despair with the
refrain, "It's a long lonely journey from death to birth," it's very
Cobain, but Pitt's own song and passionate, exciting performance.
There's a kind of climax here, but there's nobody (but us) to witness
it. Luke and Scott are up in bed with each other. As in "Elephant,"
several sequences repeat. Blake seems to be dying repeatedly, as Asia
stumbles upon him lying on the floor and he seems to nod out, though
you never see him do drugs and maybe it's just the after effect of them
from long before. Finally he's gone. We don't see him do that either.
His soul quietly climbs naked up out of his supine body, like a Duane
Michals photo. Then there's all the police, the ambulance, and the
other inhabitants sneak off, as Blake did. It's all a pageant. I felt
right at home in it remembering Oregon, Washington, the hippie days of
the Sixties: it was there for me. I know it was Grunge Rock and Kurt
Cobain, to whom this film is dedicated, died in 1994, at 26. The point
is that it feels real. But its relation to real events is tangential.
And if you give yourself to it and take it in its own context it's a
wonderful film, a beautiful funny-sad experience of doomed-damned youth
and a deeply felt meditation on isolation and death.