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Last Days

Review Written by: Joe Earp
Film: A
Video/Audio/Extras: A-/A/F

Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Written by: Gus Van Sant
Produced by: Dany Wolf
Starring: Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green, Nicole Vicius, Ryan Orion
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Rent it

Last Days is one of those films that you will either love or hate. To call it slow would be the understatement of the century. The 'plot' as it were follows the story of Blake (Michael Pitt) a lonely rock star who spends his last twenty four hours blabbering quietly to himself as he makes packet after packet of macaroni. His house is empty and rotten, the paint peels off in strips and the central heating is long gone. Nobody even attempts to make contact with Blake, save a lone Yellow Pages salesman who quickly realizes he is dealing with a lost cause.

The film pushes the audience's patience time and time again. 90% of the scenes are dialogue free, save Blake's confused mumblings. At first the movie borders on being boring. Shots seem to last for ever and scenes seem ultimately pointless. However after about twenty minutes the film sucks you in. It becomes almost hypnotic in its pacing and soon you find yourself unable to draw your eyes away from the screen. Every one of Blake's subtle movements becomes a point of interest for the audience as we desperately try to get inside the character's head, to understand what might have fuelled his descent into loneliness and insanity.

The camerawork is truly amazing. Gus Van Sant, the film's director, pairs up again with Harry Savides, his usual DOP. The two geniuses who have collaborated time and time again in the past have truly perfected their art. The color palette the two use is amazingly beautiful: greens and yellows literally jump off the screen to stunning effect. Just as in Elephant and Gerry, the two previous films of Van Sant's Death Trilogy, the camera charts the world of the characters with amazing clarity, providing us with a wonderful insight to the psyche of typically off-beat loners who rarely get the spotlight in other films.

The movie disappointed many, largely because it was supposedly inspired by rocker Curt Kobain's suicide. Many Nirvana fans hoped to see a film that would explain the suspicious death of their idol, rather than sit through a movie that tried to chart a lost man's final hours. As a result the film did poorly critically and commercially, despite being nominated for the Palme D'or at Cannes. However it would be foolish to assume that you'll hate the movie simply for being a Nirvana fan. Kurt Cobain is one of my heroes and yet this film never fails to astonish me.All in all the movie provides an amazing insight into the mind of a lost soul. The fact that the high point of the character's day is falling asleep in front of the television represents how isolated he feels. Blake spurns human contact, instead cradling a rifle like a toy in his lap. The film's tragic ending hardly comes as a surprise. Nevertheless by the final shot the audience is so drawn into the character's world that they could not care less whether or not we are surprised by the conclusion.

The DVD I watched was packed with extras, all though most were of poor quality. The 'making of' is just an interview with several of the film's main players including Michael Pitt and Harry Savidies the DOP. The interviews are so boring that I found myself more concerned with the weather outside the window than what the interviewees were actually saying. Even worse however is the 'making of the long tracking shot.' This intensely boring feature is simply a ten minute snippet of life behind the camera. Nobody even talks. Instead we are made to watch the same set up again and again as the cameramen are supposed to perfect their art. The viewer is left pondering the definition of 'special' feature by the time the ten minutes are up. However the transfer is beautifully crisp, adding another dimension to Savides intense cinematography. And who cares about the special features when presented with a film this amazing?

All in all Last Days is an unforgettable cinematic experience. Whether you love it or hate it, it's sure to leave its impact on you for a while.

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