â€śDeath by Misadventureâ€ť
written and directed by Gus Van Sant
Gus Van Sant, in the film Last Days, arouses more contemplation of Kurt Cobainâ€™s final moments without addressing or deliberating the facts or the arguments surrounding them. Instead he has devised another trip in which he tailgates the mundane, rounding out a trilogy of films (the other two being Gerry and Elephant) denouncing the public appetite for justification. Some might insist that, in the case of Cobainâ€™s death or in the true story that inspired Gerry, presumption of foul play permits inquiry, but the filmmakerâ€™s empirical standpoint insists on the futility of such exhaustive searching. When it was the question of blame in school shootings condemned by Elephant, I hoped that conservative censors might get the hint. Now I long for Last Daysâ€™ influence over Oliver Stone if not Van Santâ€™s actual handling of John F. Kennedyâ€™s fateful morning.
For the director to make another film in this style, though, would be too much. Already, Last Days verges on the redundant (especially if Jafar Panahiâ€™s Crimson Gold is included as similar territory). Many differences exist, though. If his last picture is the equivalent of a fluid stream of consciousness, this one is of a babbling brook filled with mumbling, stumbling and stammering. And despite overall inanity, the prior two films at least have an order to the action that Last Days does not. The proceedings of Blake, the fictionalized but intended substitute for Cobain, involve aimless, drug-induced wanderings throughout his expansive property and its neighboring woods. At times Michael Pittâ€™s portrayal even evokes the cinematic depictions of Hunter S. Thompson while paralleling the writerâ€™s own recent demise.
There are other characters in the film, so thereâ€™s more than only Blakeâ€™s reacting to incessantly ringing telephones, a box of mac and cheese and a nearby waterfall as if he were an out-of-time caveman. One amusing situation involves a confused visit from a salesman awkwardly played by Thadeus Thomas, a non-actor who actually makes his living selling ad space door-to-door for Yellow Book. At another point, Blake creeps about his estate wearing a hunterâ€™s cap and aiming a shotgun at sleeping parasites (entourage would be too credible) who attempt to freeload by having as little interaction with the homeowner as possible. Ricky Jay shows up long enough to ad lib a story from his acclaimed â€śJournal of Anomaliesâ€ť while playing a private detective unable to locate his mark. Kim Gordon and Harmony Korine make cameos that allow for a sense of association to music and film influences, respectively.