Offbeat director Gus Van Sant and actor Michael Pitt explore the mind of a suicidal rocker in Last Days. Although inspired by the tragic end of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, Van Sant gave himself carte blanche by dubbing it a fictional account. Reviews were mixed, with many finding it "despairing and dull," but for a so-called arthouse film, it did fairly well at the box office.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Pitt still seems hung over from the shoot in a 25-minute interview that would probably be half the length if he didn't talk...so...slowly... Nonetheless he does offer a good few intelligible insights about the freehand methods employed by Van Sant in shaping the characters. There was no script. Instead ideas sprang first from conversation and then from improvisation to make what Pitt calls "an anti-biopic". He also reveals that Van Sant edited the film with "old school" equipment in a country barn. Sadly, nowhere on this disc does the director himself deign to comment.
A Making Of featurette catches Van Sant at work, but again it's left to the cast, the producer and cinematographer to explain his approach. "You're literally experimenting the whole time," says Lukas Haas (Luke) who surprisingly reveals that he enjoyed shooting his gay sex scenes; "It was fun for me, because I could get rough with the guy!" Besides that, he and the other actors talk about using anecdotes from their own life to fill in the dialogue. What comes across most strongly is how collaborative the process really is, although producer Dany Wolf still describes the film as "pure, unfiltered Gus."
A Lingering End
For a glimpse at how painstaking filmmaking can be, The Long Dolly Shot records take after take of what looks like a simple camera move. It's basically eight minutes of gradually pulling out from a window - which is fast-paced action in the meditative world of Gus Van Sant! Likewise a deleted scene is one continuous overhead shot of Pitt in the throes of musical labour, ie lots of kicking and screaming. And there's more of that in an accompanying video by Pitt and his real-life band Pagoda who are basically a pale imitation of Nirvana.
Aside from Van Sant's reluctance to talk, it's surprising that we don't get to see more of the discarded improvisations. Ultimately the extras only provide a teasing taste of what happened in the hills of Oregon.