Last Days review

:. Director: Gus Van Sant
:. Starring: Michael Pitt, Lucas Haas
:. Running Time: 1:37
:. Year: 2005
:. Country: USA

Icon or cliché? Kurt Cobain or not? In the steady images distended by traveling shots in the rustling of an ancient world walks a man. With a troubled step, his figure made tipsy by the night. A cliché, certainly. You have to start from there. To remake the way of the cross, to stop in the roar of a very close river, for a baptism at the final hour, in extremis.

The film then begins with a character somewhere between escapism and stillness. His name is Blake, like the poet. A blond, dirty man, superimposed by the myth: Cobain is there, just behind, and with him the icon, in transparency behind the cliché. Gus Van Sant shouldn't be reproached for letting himself be seduced by the pose. It's there that the cliché is strongest, undoubtedly the closest to the "recognizable" icon, this figure that a dead singer and his interpreter can cohabit in the strictest intimacy. It is well the pose which interests the filmmaker and what it says in its silence, its pretense of eternity.

The noises of the forest respond to his silence, along with other mixed sounds, between bells and litanies, the mystical contemporary Christ: this sometimes deaf noise, sometimes grueling image, which allows here for a hypothesis, whether it's the primitive sound of rock, still virgin and not yet put to music, interlaced in the movements of water and wind, in full nature. Rock and roll as the reinvention of reality, the simple removal of a wild and timeless rumor.

Last Days is not far from being the most beautiful film about this topic. Its serene frontal approach, which does not exclude the ridicule inherent to all clichés, does not hesitate to go through with the gag, the discrete burlesque of the postures.

Because before being an icon, before being Kurt Cobain, Blake is also a body in all its states, a body that does not transcend anything, a pure immanence to the contrary, a phantom perhaps, but quite alive. Disguises of fortune, falls, games of cat and mouse, another way of royally not giving a damn: Van Sant does not forget the twisted part of the mythology of rock'n'roll, whose kings largely invent buffoons.

From the cliché to the joke, a tremor then digs the pose from the inside, where the figure is concealed, returning the audience to fear.

Inside the joke: the nameless absurd terror of a world equal to itself, which is not mentioned, is not explained by anything. Death will come at its hour, gently. Obviously, that's not what imposes fear, but rather ennui that gnaws at the character. On the other side of the joke, the duration of the film finds its full resonance; this is where is the terror, the small death of ennui, among the wanderings, the meaningless gestures, this nothingness which ends up covering every creation, where the world gives nothing more but its rumor, where the signs have disappeared. This is why the film also deliberately sends signals. His fixed shots themselves are at the same time iconic and clichéd (in the photographic sense of the term), they are a trace, what remains of past creation, what remains when there is no longer music.

There is music in Last Days. You have to wait. A final burst of energy, when Blake, filmed from further and further away, tears the sound space by playing his guitars. The window of the house is closed, however the music reaches us, increasingly strong as the shot slowly widens. Blake is already dead. But his music is part of the world; from now on it communes with the outside. Later, on an acoustic guitar, it's from the inside that the last lament sounds, the deepest pain, right before the last voyage.

Between outside and inside, private degeneration and artistic legacy, Gus Van Sant finally reaches the icon, even as a shoddy Christ. He knows the narrow path of the grotesque to the sublime, which he borrows from the beginning, on the heels of the character. Then, the Assumption can really start, to the very end, for a sequence of absolute and simple beauty. The naked body of Cobain is superimposed on Blake's corpse, almost in a state of evaporation.

Then only the corpse remains, soon carried away by the ambulance, a neutral return to reality in place of the miracle. Beauty again: not finishing on the apotheosis, returning to the world; letting a trace of the disappeared myth float. In the end, one keeps the memory of a real incarnation, in spite the unavoidable presence of death, thinking that after all, both Blake or Cobain are still alive.

  Sébastien Bénédict
  Translated into English by Anji Milanovic

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