Loosely inspired by the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the third part of Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy,” following Gerry and Elephant depicts the final days of a reclusive rock star in a wooded lodge outside of Seattle.
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Gus Van Sant said that this was informed by Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, but it lacks the formal rigor that made JD so compelling, and we never feel connected or involved. Jeanne's meatloaf looks a lot tastier than Blake's Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. Not much meat here for Asia Argento fans, either.
The particular unfortunately-associated-with-Sundance American independent film movement that was still dawning as the nineties were dawning had two filmmakers who were doing extraordinary work with form, both of them gay men: Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes. I'm gonna have to chose Last Days over I'm Not There, though both are wonderful. Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days. He had it. Almost. Then, apparently, lost hold.
Saw this today; really into it. I even watched Elephant again tonight. Now I need to see Gerry!
Michael Pitt is brilliant in this film; he captures Kurt Cobain's spirit but builds a set of idiosyncrasies that are uniquely queer. Van Sant stages it all in stately wide shots, showcasing Blake's large house or a vast landscape. It's impressive, and requires patience, but rewards those willing to indulge a little.
Channeling the fixed shots of Chantal Akerman demonstrate a deliberate patience with composition and shot length, Van Sant's stylistic oeuvre moves into a different direction from Alan Clarke's 'Elephant' and the RPG-videogame influenced tracking shots in 'Elephant' and 'Gerry'. As a reflection on the last days of Kurt Cobain, it is hit-and-miss, but as a piece of cinematic poetry, it excels.
This film is definitely more about context and less about dialogue, which may be why the film appears to go "slowly" -- the story is muddled, but not out of reach for the viewer. There absolutely is meaning hidden underneath the facade of long shots, mumbling as talking, unusual sound design, and lack of consistent dialogue. Give it more than one viewing ... it will begin to make sense.