Wednesday, April 04, 2007

last days : review

this is a director's movie if ive seen one. gus van sant takes u on an epic journey, leaving u flustered, frustrated, irritable, numb, in fact anything but sympathetic, and it was great to see a movie about the death of a rockstar that doesnt actually glorigy his death. neither does he give u the shock treatment-there's no blood, gore or even drugs shown. the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, blake (micahel pitt), grunge musician, who's nihilism and disllusionment drives him to suicide.

if gus van sant wanted the movie to be seen as the life of blake however, he has another thing coming. he should have picked an actor who looks less like kurt cobain for starters. the same clothes(incl. the famous striped cardigan he supposedly traded his shirt for with a junkie on the streets of amsterdam, i think), the funny shades, even the hair. the medium is only as storng as the obvious, so i'm going to review this movie as gus van sant's attempt at deconstructing or filling in (?) the events around cobain's death.

i dont want to go through the storyline because, well there is no story line. the cinematography is wonderrful, but i have to say i was a bit disappointed with the whole repetition -of-scenes thing.yes yes i get it, blake's life seemed redundant, evry day was the same towards the end, he must have felt like there was nothing left to live for but i thought the movie conveyed all that anywy-the director really dint have to resort to that kind of cheesy 'cult-movie' gimmicry.

i really liked the aloofness of his housemates, who bear striking resemblances to dave grohl and kurt novoselic(who else). now i have a lot of respect for grohl as a musician, not merely because ive loved all his music right from scream to nirvana to QOTS to foo fighters, but also because grohl really re-defined nirvana's sound when he came in and that takes a lot of character, considering nevermind their first album as a band together rides solely on the power of his drumming over considerable amounts of time. (this is not to take away anything from nirvana's earlier recordings, i think bleach defines cobain's musical vision the best, just that grohl defined nirvana's vision since his inception into the band. the interesting thing is that while conspiracy theorists have of course pointed fingers at evryone from courtney love to grohl to fanatic fans as possible murderers, grohl in many ways can actly be held responsible if thought of that way. nirvana would not have achieved the 'generation X' mtv popularity it enjoyed post-nevermind if it hadnt been for grohl coming into the band. kobain's music was anything but appealing to the popular masses if earlier recordings are any indication and novoselic never really had a say anyway, which means they may never have actually been put in the limelight like they were if it werent for grohl-the limelight and attention that cobain hated and supposedly drove him to suicide . would kobain have been happy playing small garage gigs all his life is another question)it's interesting how lucas (the grohl stand-in) is depicted as somebody who pretty much lives off blake, taking money from him, orchestrating their escape to LA on hearing of blake's death due to fear of being incriminated, etc. the part where lucas comes in wasted two nights in a row, and listens to VU's 'venus in furs' was just fukcing beautiful. i've always thought the lyrics had homosexual connotations, so i especailly enjoyed the scene after where lucas and the novoselic character climb into bed and start making out. it did leave me a bit confused though-wasnt kobain a homophobic? my own drug addled memory seems to rembr reading soemthing abt cobain having been molested as a child (or was that axl rose?)anywys i cant be arsed to google it but i thought it was an interesting touch. i also liked novoselic dude telling a blank blake that he wished the music sounded more personal than it did just then and how he had a few ideas for songs, followed by lucas pushing him out of the room.

there's a part in the begining where the boyz II men video 'on bended knee' is played on blake's television, almost the entire video mind you. inconguous as it may seem, it was quite a brilliant commentary on the plastic nature of mtv-popularised music of the time, and how distraught kobain must have felt havnig been branded part of the movement. through out the movie, blake runs through shrubbery, hides from social workers, mumbles to himself, passes out, does things like that-basically he' either comatose or incoherent. he doesnt actually make sense anytime, except when he says out loud 'i lost something on my way to wherever i am today' , while he jots down his sucide note.

Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, close friend of cobain, has a a two minute cameo where she tells cobain to get back into rehab and admonisihing him for neglecting his daughter. she says, when you talk to her will you tell her 'your sorry for being a rock n roll cliche?' this i thought was a particularly poignant moment-no exaggerated drama, very realistically delivered but sort of ecncompassing the idea of it all. while cobain may have been a a great talent, the line cut the myth behind the man to reality: a wasted junkie, an excuse for self-distruction, nothing honourable or worship-worthy there. i'd read today morning in the paper that keith richards finally confirmed thhat he snorted his fater's ashes with some coke in 2002. i may have found that 'incredibly rock n roll' three years ago, but i'm glad im growing up, and it was just nice to watch a movie about a disturbed genius that doesnt glorify him, nor judge. in fact, the whole stand-out point of the movie is how in tocuh it is with the protagonist's reality. it's almost as though bkae has already given up on any real life-he's just going through the motions, dead inside, a bumbling fool headbent on crash-n burn. when you see the man who occupied most of your bedroom poster space and music collection for ten -twelve years humbled like that, it can be quite mind -blowing , if u were as big a fan as i.

cobain does make one last foray into the outside world though-to a small gig, one he hastily exits from. micaheal pitt's song 'from birth to death' was fucking beautiful, cobain-like, accoustic. there's nothing more i can say about that. blake also manages to maintain a child-like quality abt him at most times-for example, the castle he lives in could have come out of nay enid blyton story-there are forests around it, brooks, hills, very fairy-tale. the funny yellow shades are reminiscent of those things you get at 3-d movies. the impishness of his attempts at hiding from the social workers are as child-like as they are desperate.

finally, the death. a gardener or plumber or someone like that finds blake dead in the glasshouse.its as simple and abrupt as that. there is a mildly disturbing scene here, where a naked blake is seen climbing out of his corpse and up a ladder on wall. i hope to god nobody interprets that as an ascention into heaven, redemption or cultural inconography. what does it signify then? i was thinking, it could be soemthing as simplistic as his soul finally being free- despite being effectively dead to the outside world for the last few days, his soul was still trapped inside his pysical self and itching to be liberated. his suicide of course was the final step-his soul finally climbs out and goes wherevr it wants, free of human trappings like fame or necessities like clothes. i know it's abit simplistic but it would be in keeping with the movie's generally straight-forward story telling.

im a bit hassled by all the parallels that the director has supposedly drawn between blake and jesus. i just dont see what ur talking about, except that in the movies, jesus was also a thin, blonde haired, somewhat effeminate man during his last days.

a must-watch for nirvana fans, and pop-culture students. while im still undecided about whats better-fading away or burning out-a heroin habbit and self-loathing does not put ur flame out before taking everything you have. that last moment before you burn out, that nano-second before you pull the trigger, what's left of you is a shadow of evrything u once were.


Blogger Laura said...

I've been meaning to see this one. Love your description of the Kim Gordon cameo. I might see the flick just based on that.

11:50 AM  

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