Last Days

On April 1, 1994, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain slipped out of a Los Angeles rehab facility and headed north to his home in Seattle. A week later, his body was found in a small greenhouse above the garage of his Lake Washington estate, dead from a shotgun wound. Exactly what transpired during Cobain's five final days became the subject of intense speculation,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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On April 1, 1994, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain slipped out of a Los Angeles rehab facility and headed north to his home in Seattle. A week later, his body was found in a small greenhouse above the garage of his Lake Washington estate, dead from a shotgun wound. Exactly what transpired during Cobain's five final days became the subject of intense speculation, and a dodgy but persistent murder-conspiracy theory inevitably emerged from the murk. Filmmaker Gus Van Sant has little interest in re-creating the chain of events that ended in what was almost certainly suicide. Instead, as he did in GERRY (2003) and ELEPHANT (2004), Van Sant draws inspiration from a stew of mounting loneliness, confusion and despair that culminates in violent death. Using long takes, largely improvised dialogue and an increasingly out-of-joint time frame, Van Sant chronicles the final hours of fictional but Cobain-like rock star Blake (Michael Pitt), who returns to his wooded estate after going AWOL from rehab. When the private investigator (Ricky Jay) hired by Blake's worried wife arrives at Blake's decaying mansion with Donovan (Ryan Orion), one of Blake's friends, he finds only Blake's dealer, Scott (Scott Green); Scott's lover, aspiring musician Luke (Lukas Haas); and two local girls (Asia Argento, Nicole Vicius). Blake, meanwhile, is stumbling around the grounds in stupor, mumbling, swimming in a nearby stream, sleeping outdoors and unearthing a cigar box which, if it's anything like the one found next to Cobain's corpse, contains bundles of heroin and works. Once back in the house, Blake entertains visits from a misguided Yellow Pages salesman (Thadeus A. Thomas) and a concerned record-company executive (Kim Gordon), and takes a high-pressure call from the manager who wants him to OK an 86-date European tour. Blake hangs up without speaking a word. Blake's increasing disorientation is evoked by Pitt's astonishing performance and Van Sant's extraordinary use of sound and complex manipulation of the time frame; overlapping sequences are presented achronologically, suggesting that re-creating a life as unmoored and shattered as Cobain's is an exercise in futility. The tragedy of it all, however, doesn't escape Van Sant; hours after the record exec asks whether or not Blake ever apologizes to his baby daughter for being such a "rock-and-roll cliche," the wraithlike Blake curls up in an empty crib and mumbles a plaintive "Sorry." The senselessness of it all comes rushing back, and it's enough to break your heart all over again.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: On April 1, 1994, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain slipped out of a Los Angeles rehab facility and headed north to his home in Seattle. A week later, his body was found in a small greenhouse above the garage of his Lake Washington estate, dead from a shotgun w… (more)

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