Last Days (2005)

18421413Van Sant’s third foray in to the indie film of this sort of substance this time centers around a young man named “Blake”, who is basically living out his last days before he commits suicide which is an inevitable. Van Sant doesn’t manage to, or even bother to tell any sort of story here, and his method that usually works so well is wasted. The film consists of the character walking around and mumbling to himself, then he goes to church, then he walks around mumbling to himself, then he makes breakfast, then he walks around mumbling to himself, then we take a view in to his friends who basically party and come home to have sex. Everything about “Last Days” is melodramatic even with the title sequence comprised of a stark black with bold large white letters. There’s no real narrative to this as well, with Van Sant’s other themed indies there was a story, but in this there’s just nothing.

The characters answer the door and let in every single solicitor, forcing us to watch every single repetitious interview and bit of droning dialogue that is meant as humorous, but is just utterly pointless. With Van Sant’s past indie ventures, the long drawn out camera work served a purpose. But here, it’s just forced and truly testing on one’s attention span.  I loved Van Sant’s first two films which featured such storytelling methods, but here it’s just utterly senseless.  One highlight of this film is Van Sant and his directing style. His style and approach towards his latest indies will not bode well with the mentally one-minded and ADD crowd of movie-goers who get off on MTV style quick cuts that stay on one shot for a millisecond. Van Sant’s approach is not only the mark of a director who is actually telling a story, but it weeds out the lame-brained audiences who can’t sit on a camera shot that last for more than ten seconds. One true test was “Gerry” in which Van Sant would hold his camera on a shot that lasted for at least five minutes.

Look around you if watching one of the three films and you’ll either see people watching with assiduity, and or you’ll see others cringing and groaning with impatience. I for one love Van Sant’s methods of focusing in on a bit of scenery and holding it for a good long while, what’s very particular about his method is he hardly ever squares in on the character on-screen yet keeps the image in a wide spectrum revealing the world they’re in. With “Gerry” it was abandonment and hopelessness, with “Elephant” it was monotony and mounting tension, and here it’s empty and hollow. I love Van Sant’s visually pleasing direction; in the climax when Blake finally murders himself, we see the gardener discovering his body, but he’s obscured and his body is blocked by a window pane while Blake’s spirit disappears in the distance. It’s a great sequence Van Sant demonstrates so well. With “Last Days”, the bits of story here do manage to unfold in some surprising instances.

Halfway in to the film, we get to see why “Blake’s” friends hang around him so much, and we learn so many things as the story unfolds about the situation this character is in. One of my most grievous contentions with “Last Days”, though, is that in spite of the master work of Gus Van Sant, the film is ultimately yet another mass produced offering in to the thought process of deifying someone so asinine and melodramatic as Kurt Cobain, who was yet another angst ridden rock star (Even the title “Last Days” is a subtle allusion to Kurt Cobain). What type of artistically impotent world thinks Cobain is the apotheosis of artistry when there have been so many others before him? It speaks of America that a blonde blue-eyed idiot would be deemed an artist. While the innovative directing style from Van Sant is always a welcome change to the routine directing style commonly seen, the film is utterly pointless in further attempting to seek importance in a mediocre musician.