17 November 2005

Canonizing a Demon

We all have our idols. For many from my generation and beyond, it's Kurt Cobain. I've never really liked him, only appreciated his contribution to the musical landscape. His apathetically angry lyrics and delivery captured the soul of Gen-Xers to a tee. But, he copped out and left his adoring fans behind with a bullet to the head.

Now, this was no Hunter S. Thompson, tough-it-out-for-years death. No, this was a drug-induced, I'm pitiful, my life sucks despite the millions I've raked in suicide. But, this is all old news.

These days, high schoolers wander the halls wearing tee shirts sporting deified depictions of Cobain. I've read the messages literally written on the wall: "Kurt Cobain is God."

Enter Gus Van Sant—writer, director, and producer of Last Days. This movie is a joke!

A fictionalized account of Cobain's final days, Last Days introduces us to Blake, a rock-and-roller who's just broken out of rehab to return to his mansion in the woods. Upon arrival, he digs up a box of what we can only imagine is filled with heroin and a rig (syringe). We never see him use the drugs, but we do see him search for a spoon. Anyone remotely familiar with the practice of using heroin can make the assumption that he needs it to melt down the heroin. But he doesn't. He needs it for his cereal.

The movie proceeds with long drawn out scenes showing Blake staring off into space or playing his guitar or walking through the woods mumbling obscenities to himself. If you have a DVD player, use the subtitles, otherwise you can only hear about a quarter of the dialogue. This drawn out scene approach is starting to grate on me. Too many people I know claim this technique creates an effect much closer to reality. Well folks, as Last Days aptly demonstrates, movies aren't reality.

If this movie had been closer to the actual life of Kurt Cobain, Blake would have shot up, harrassed his wife and kid, then put a gun in his mouth and ended it all. That was Cobain. Instead, Van Sant attempts some form of canonizing, some way to make Cobain a saint through the silver screen. Blake doesn't kill himself; he returns to his mansion in the woods for solace and dies from lack of medical assistance while kicking his addiction. He merely dies a tragic death of one who wished to make a change in his life for the better. Once dead, his spirit leaves the corpse and climbs up to Heaven.


The backtracking time play redeems this film. One scene plays out and follows into another, only to wind up in a different room at a time right before a previous scene. Understand? Well, the first time you see one of these slipbacks, you don't catch it. But once you do, it makes the movie more palatable, more like finding that piece of the puzzle you were looking for a half hour before.

If you llke those slow, foreign-film like movies and think Kurt Cobain was God, watch Gus Van Sant's Last Days. If you want the truth or an action-packed flick, avoid this one like the plague.


Robert Casserly said...

You nailed it. I usually love G.V.S.' work, and I have every Nirvana CD, but this movie stinks worse than preacher's underwear.

Did you see GVS' Elephant?

I haven't rented it yet but if it's as bad as Last Days, won't.


Kyle Stich said...

I saw Elephant so long ago I can't even remember it. Guess I'll need to add it to the list. Tonight, I'm watching Reefer Madness: The Musical.

Lately, though, I've been watching The Big Lebowski.

"They're my dirty undies, Dude."