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REVIEW: "Last Days"

If you were to say that every moment of actual dialogue from the film was used in the 2 minute trailer, I might not argue with you. In the end, this is both the good and bad of "Last Days". We find Gus Van Sant completing his self-proclaimed "trilogy of death", flat-narrative explorations of the valleys, not the peaks. Within these three films (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days), we find life magnified, studied at it's very essence, with a fine eye, an a extremely intricate focus. Whether figurative or literal, we witness characters who are lost, and must wander towards some indeterminate location where revelation is held. "Last Days" continues this theme, allowing us to watch, in gruesome fashion, the unravelled tumblings of a man absolutely awash in the sea that is his own life. We find a man, Blake, who's days do not seperate from his nights, his friends do not seperate from his acquaintances. He simply stumbles throughout his estate, and the sorrounding forest, mumbling, rooting through his own mess, and attempting to somehow find a cure for what is eating him from the inside out.

"Last Days", much like the first two films of the trilogy, is very slow, very methodic, overlaps moments, blurs time, and ends in death. We are never allowed to experience the glimpses of life and narrative that briefly intersect with Blake. In my personal opinion, "Elephant" was a failure of Van Sant's lovely form, and sadly, "Last Days" carries forward in some of the faulty attributes. The first being Van Sant's hap-hazard attempts to show two people connecting. He did it in "Elephant" with John and his dad, he does it here with Blake and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, playing a label rep. Sadly, he does not let his aestethic style inspire his character interactions and let relationships build as they do through silence and circumstance in "Gerry", and through mis-alignment, like we see in the wonderful scene between Blake and a Yellow Pages salesman in "Last Days". I found myself wishing Van Sant would let the strange justice of life dictate relationships, instead of having the kids converse as they do in "Elephant" or having the agent say "Have you told your daughter you're sorry you're a rock and roll cliche?"

Also, we again see Van Sant using overlaps and redundancies in narrative. This is perhaps the most obnoxious of traits carried into "Last Days" from "Elephant". It made a certain amount of sense in "Elephant", helping to build momentum and give a sensation of a gathering tide. Yet I still feel it's very sophmoric and obvious, and Van Sant is above it. We find this overlaps in "Last Days" as well, but in circumstances which serve even LESS a purpose (how about none) than they do in "Elephant". If there is one amazing trait in Van Sant as a director, not counting his breathtaking cinematic eye and style, IS HIS PATIENCE. Why can't he be patient enough to let time and music and environment do this work for us, instead of overlapping scenes to no new effect?

I'll end my critical inventory by saying that, in my opinion, "Gerry" is the purest form of what Van Sant is aiming for. It is him at his best, without trying to comment on pop-culture (columbine, cobain). "Gerry" is a unique, flawless work of a pioneer. "Last Days" and ESPECIALLY "Elephant" are an exceedingly intelligient and stylized director pandering to a hipper audience who may have not had the soul to appreciate "Gerry".

Now, allow me then to say that "Last Days" is absolutely one of the most outstanding films of the year thus far, despite any gripes I may have with it. It very much reminds me of "Brown Bunny", in the best of ways. Actually "Last Days" is similar to "9 Songs" as well, in that it's intimate nature, and the high demands it puts on it's viewers, create a profound outcome that is more of a long term reward than anything. After drifting throughout the small universe in which Blake has isolated himself, barely hearing him mumble, encountering his house guests as ghosts almost, seeing him working out the puzzles in his mind... we feel complex, we feel compelled and we feel somehow attached to this very distant character.

Upon walking out, you may feel confused, a bit exhausted, but you'll find yourself ruminating on the film, images, sounds... things left over, still bubbling up in you. Somehow, Van Sant and Michael Pitt make us feel how empty, and tough, and cold, and unforgiving the world is for Blake, and when we finally hear the bells rise to a crescendo, and Blake looks up and beyond us, there is a strange freedom, and some sort of universal sigh felt for the man left to wander about his own life, wondering what has become of it.

Reviewed by Keegan DeWitt
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2:48 PM

gerry, was i believe, the perfect melding of form and contact with regards to the aesthetic that van sant currently employs. this aesthetic feels far less appropriate for the material in last days.    

2:50 PM

I couldn't agree with you more. But I think it COULD work with "Last Days" if there wasn't such a pup-culture reference.`    

3:07 PM

i feel like there's a good deal self aware pop culture wink wink bullshit in last days. the boyz II men video being a prime suspect.    

9:59 AM

I remember reading somewhere that the Boys II Men video was one true life event that happened in Cobain's last days. Someone recalls him watching a Boys II Men video. Although the film is only based on real-life circumstances, it's clearly impossible to remove oneself entirely from the fate of Kurt Cobain when watching this film and I think it's interesting to include what is not fiction here. The Boys II Men video becomes as meaningless to Blake's (Kurt's) fate as any of the "signs" that point to the boys killing spree in Elephant. I think the form and content play nicely here. Can't imagine how else I'd like to see a man decay on screen but in a slow, methodical, and intimate one.

Nice review Keegan.    

5:15 PM

last days is anything but intimate. the execution of the aesthetic is shoddy at best.    

5:56 AM

brendan is anything but intimate and well executed.    

12:59 PM

i can't argue w/ that. but i would say this in closing. Last Days feel like it was made by some asshole who saw Gerry and thought he'd imitate the form, with no understanding of how to do so effectively.    

1:30 PM

we all get it, Gerry is a superior film. I couldn't agree more. Last Days, however, is successful on many levels and feels true to a Gus Van Sant picture. Clearly no rip-off.    

2:27 PM

i really like it when after michael pitt is dead his 'ghost' climbs out of his body. best moment of the film. id like the sequel to the yellow pages salesman and michael pitt's ghost lost in the desert.    

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