Irish Film Institute -Last Days

Last Days

Director: Gus Van Sant

U.S.A.| 2005. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 95 min.

Inspired by the death of Kurt Cobain, Gus Van Sant has created a haunting and wholly original meditation on the inner turmoil that engulfs a brilliant but troubled musician in the final days of his life. Michael Pitt (The Dreamers, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) stars as Blake, an introspective artist who is buckling under the weight of fame, professional obligations and a mounting feeling of isolation. Last Days follows him through a handful of hours he spends in and near his wooded home, a fugitive from his own life. It is a period of random moments and fractured consciousness, fused together by spontaneous bursts of music. Filming in long takes and at some distance from his subject, Van Sant observes Blake as he attempts to avoid his retinue of guests and hangers-on, evade an inquisitive private eye, fob off a concerned record executive, converse with a voluble salesman, listen to twin Mormon missionaries, and finally travel up the stairway to heaven..
This is no bombastic rock biography like Oliver Stone’s The Doors, packed with famous moments and greatest hits. Instead, Last Days, with a style that almost suggests surveillance-camera neutrality, shows us the stuff hidden from the public and even from Blake’s entourage. Building on the aesthetic approach he developed in Gerry (2002) and Elephant (2003), Van Sant continues to stretch the boundaries of cinema. All three films use elliptical storytelling, fixed settings and improvisational acting techniques to deliver portraits of characters at the end of their tether. For Van Sant, Blake has a certain heroism because, for all his raging inner talent, he doesn’t choose to win and live. Even if that philosophy is suicidal, the poetry of Last Days has a stoned grandeur.

Van Sant’s Gerry and Elephant are also showing in this programme.

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