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By Brandon Judell
Michael Pitt stars as an on-the-edge musician eerily similar to late rocker Curt Cobain in "Final Days" directed by Gus Van Sant.
Gus Van Sant's Final Days is a meditative masterpiece inspired by the last few hours on this planet of Courtney Love's spouse, rock star Kurt Cobain. Now how you will greet a film with no plot, little dialogue, and languid editing all depends upon your partiality toward experimental filmmaking, contemplative pacing, and the self-indulgence of a heroin-addicted, multimillionaire, cultural icon who disdains his own good fortune.
But whatever your sentiments on these matters are, you'll be hard-pressed to negate Van Sant's genius at creating a bona fide reality of extreme beauty and spiritual sloth.
The Cobain stand-in here is the grungy Blake, who's more embodied by Michael Pitt than acted. Ensconced in an isolated estate, this laconic mass of pallid flesh and stray hair is seen bathing in a river, making a box of macaroni and cheese, and listening to the pitches of a Yellow Pages salesman who mistakes him for a business client. These are Blake's high-action moments. His relationship to life at times seems to be that of Charlie Chaplin's tramp, but only in extreme slow-mo.
There are other characters on site-band members, hangers-on, friends, businessmen-but Blake is constantly trying to escape their grasp, either by not answering the phone, running away from them, or immersing himself in a totally blank state of mind.
Blankness or purity? You decide.
Of course, those viewers so inclined will easily latch on to the religious iconography scattered throughout Last Days. The finale is especially chock-full of Christ intimations.
Consequently, critics are already clashing on whether the iconoclastic Gus Van Sant's achievement is a model of pretentiousness or a laudable piece of art. Van Sant is probably cheered up by the debate. After all, this is a director, who more than any other, always seems to be running toward or away from commercial success. It's hard to imagine that Good Will Hunting (1997), Finding Forrester (2000), Elephant (2003), Mala Noche (1985), and Drugstore Cowboy (1989) were all helmed by the very same man. This in itself is worthy of applause and maybe four stars. [Judell]
Writer/Director: Gus Van Sant
Director of Photography: Harris Savides
Cast: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Nicole Vicius, Harmony Korine, Chip Marks
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2005
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