Last Days

Last Days

DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Themroc's film review of Last Days

The one voice missing from the Making Of featurette is that of Gus Van Sant. The others - actors, producer, cinematographer - sing his praises - "Gus is the best", "Gus's creative instincts", "Almost not like a movie, more like an art piece" - as if he is so far from the concept of mainstream filmmaking that it would be an affront to mention him in the same breath as Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter 1 & 2), or Garry Marshall (Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries).

Hang on a pretty minute, guys. Gus made Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester and the carbon copy Psycho. He's not all Elephant and My Own Private Idaho. Although he is here. And that's the point.

Copy picture

Last Days makes no concessions to the audience. The camera is static, more often than not. The tension and atmosphere comes from the performances and what these young actors like about Van Sant is that he's open to suggestion. "He doesn't shout," Michael Pitt says. "He's quiet." He sets the scene and lets them do their thing, which, in Pitt's case, is most impressive.

As a DVD extra the Making Of consists of standard sound bites intercut with scenes from the film. Lukas Haas talks of "experimenting all the time." Dany Wolf, the cueballed producer, says the film is about "someone in crisis," which is stating the obvious, and then tells the story of the Yellow Pages salesman, who really was a Yellow Pages salesman. Others talk of the script, which appears to have been more of an illusion than a reality ("no script, no rules").

The Deleted Scene has a static camera above the drum kit as Blake (Pitt) appears from the right, picks up an electric guitar, starts playing dirge-like, except the sound continues as he moves over to the drums and starts seriously working on them before kicking them over and exiting stage left. The scene goes on a long time and is better out than in.

The music video looks like a parody, with Pitt and two of his mates singing and mime playing, while a couple of semi-clothed groupies in masks dance about with sheets. It turns out to be a song, written by Pitt.

The Long Dolly Shot is hilarious and gives some indication what making a movie can be like. The scene is the same one as the Deleted, except shot from outside, facing the window, looking through. The camera (plus cameraman) rests on short rails and as they film move infinitely slowly backwards. Five or six helpers dismantle the front rail and rush with it to the back before the dolly reaches them. After Take 7 of what appears to an outsider to be a relatively simple shot, you begin to wonder why more people in the film business are not completely off their heads (perhaps, they are).

The Michael Pitt Interview is the best of the extras, because he is so obviously genuine. Van Sant had been talking about making a film like Last Days for two years and when finally he offered Pitt the role of Blake "I laughed at him and said he was crazy."

He had reservations at the start because of Blake's close resemblance to Kurt Cobain ("It wasn't a biopic; it was an anti-biopic"). Not only was he a fan, but he didn't want anyone to think he took the part to advance his own music, or his own band.

He hung out with Sonic Youth for a while, although the issue of Cobain was ever present. "I felt confused a lot of the time. Was it him? Was it not him?" He tried not to have preconceived ideas and determined to find Blake during the filming ("Method seems so dangerous, especially with this character"), which he describes as "not based on fact - it's more like a poem."

However he did it, Pitt's performance remains one of the most outstanding of the year and deserves greater recognition, as does Van Sant for his courage in making a movie with practically no dialogue and a protagonist disabled by despair.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2006
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Last Days packshot
The final hours of a rock legend.
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Product Code: OPTD0281

Region: 2

Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame

Sound: Dolby Digital 3.1

Extras: Making Of Last Days; Deleted Scene; music video; The Long Dolly Shot; Michael Pitt Interview; trailer

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