Last Days is Gus Van Sant's fictionalised take on the decline and suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Michael Pitt is Blake, a heroin-addled rock star hiding out in his elegant, crumbling mansion. There he slides into disconnected despair, avoiding human contact and lost in silence, to his pitiful end. Melancholic, abstract, and stripped almost completely of narrative and dialogue, the film instead uses mood and suggestion. But while undeniably beautiful, it carries little more than the obvious voyeuristic appeal.
Shot from single camera positions in sleepy lingering takes, the film swoons into time-slips and reveries, and never leaves the mansion's grounds. The editing mirrors the curious disorientation of Cobain/Blake, who floats elusively through the film, barely brushing against the other characters, as if he were already dead. The various attempts to reach him from outside the house fail - the unanswered phonecalls, a salesman, a pair of Mormons, a private investigator hired by his wife - while the four hangers-on in the mansion seem to go out of their way to exclude him. Only a fleeting visit from a switched-on record executive (Kim Gordon) elicits eye contact and anything more than a mumble.
"UNFOCUSSED, DESPAIRING AND DULL"
Pitt has the haircut, the clothing, the sunglasses, the notebook; all the visual trappings of the Cobain legend, right down to the eventual pose of his sneaker-shod corpse. But there is nothing more. Blake's blankness (an effect of the off-screen heroin, a foreshadowing of his death, an attempt to let the viewer project their own psychology into the mystery, a reflection of the lost passions of his life, whatever...) ends up denying Cobain and the film their rightful charisma and electricity. So he was unfocussed, despairing and dull, then, in his last days. Why should the film be the same?