Last night Faye and I watched “Last Days”. I have been threatening to see this film since it premiered at SIFF, but, for various reasons, never got around to it. I didn't expect much from it, considering I have only ever enjoyed ONE Gus Van Sant film. The guy is just not a good filmmaker. Self-importance aside, his dirty-old-man vibe gives me the willies. There are many out-of-work actors who could play Mormon missionaries, but 'Ol Gus had to hire a set of young, supple, yet extremely green twins instead. And I'm sure he hired them with not a HINT of ulterior motive. Gus got lucky with Michael Pitt who is not only young and supple, but can also act.
But crappy filmmaking decisions aside, the thing that really bugged me about the film was brought to light by Faye. “This movie is making me hate Kurt Cobain” she said. And she was right. I don't know how Gus MEANT to portray Kurt, but if he intended to show that this man who was revered as a rock God was nothing more than a fucked up junkie who stumbled into fame, couldn't get clean, neglected his family and friends and then unintentionally blew his head off, then mission accomplished. Sure, Kurt wrote great songs and changed the face of rock and roll, but was it all accidental? It wasn't the fame that got to Kurt. It was his severe depression and his addictive nature. He probably would have ended up the same way without the record contract and he would have been dismissed as another junkie statistic, if his death even registered at all.
It wasn't just the movie that got me re-evaluating my feelings toward a guy I formerly revered. I also recently read “Life on Planet Rock” by Lonn Friend, the ex-RIP magazine editor. In his chapter about Nirvana, Kurt came off as a dick and a headcase. Just because someone can write a good song (or novel or poem) doesn't give them a license to act like selfish children. Kurt seemed to take one look at Lonn Friend, dismiss him as corporate crap, and that was that. Perhaps he was just having an off day. Perhaps he was strung out (because that's a good excuse..) but I've read an awful lot of interviews and books about him and they all suggest the same thing: The guy spent most of his life pushing away the people who wanted to help him and only letting equally fucked up people in. Tell me again why he's such a hero to so many people?
It's a similar revelation I had with “Catcher in the Rye”. In high school, I related to Holden Caulfield because I was a lonely, bitter teenage asshole. As an adult, I still think “Catcher” is a great piece of literature, but now I feel sorry for Holden because he is really the ONLY ONE standing in the way of his happiness. Sure, the world is full of phonies. But there are good people too. Lots of them. And if you just assume that each new person you meet will screw you over, you're going to lead a long (or short) lonely life.
Both Holden and Kurt ended their stories before anyone of influence could tell them to just grow up. Gus Van Sant may have made a long, pretentious, extremely flawed film, but the story he told still had an effect.
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