Sunday, December 04, 2005

Last Days (2005)

Gus Van Sant's latest slice of minimalistic morbidity is, at heart, a shell of a movie about a shell of a man. I respect Van Sant's resistance to offering explanations, but his adherence to purity-of-form sinks this just like it sank Elephant. (Maybe that's why Gerry works -- its divorcement from any form of explainable reality worked to the advantage of the no-explanation aesthetic.) Let's face it: basing your film around a sullen enigma like Blake-not-Kurt is bound to suck the marrow from it. Besides the nothing that is Blake, there's also the vomitous hangers-on that keep intruding on the (non)narrative -- their obnoxious presence fowls any scene in which they appear. I understand that Van Sant is trying to deglamorize the idea of rock-star-death (or something like that), and his director's eye still manages to eke out a couple interesting moments. In particular, there's a great bit near the end where Blake improvises a song that sounds like a ragged howl from somewhere deep within his soul that points to places the film could have gone if it evinced any interest in its subjects aside from figures in a tableaux. But alas, all this is is a long, slow march towards an inevitable death; what's particularly embarrassing is how Van Sant manages to screw up that slam-dunk ending in at least three different ways. I could quote Nirvana here, but I think I'd rather quote a different band out of Seattle: "So doctor, won't you pull the fucking plug? / Won't you cut the cord? / 'Cause you can't put the life back into this hospital ward." Might be time to abandon the minimalism, Gus.

Grade: C


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