Daily Archives: November 12, 2019

Kurtsploitation [LAST DAYS]

From the Chicago Reader (August 12, 2005). — J.R.

Last Days

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by Gus Van Sant

With Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green, Nicole Vicius, Ricky Jay, and Thadeus A. Thomas.

A film about a junkie rock musician, played by Michael Pitt at his most narcissistic, doing nothing in particular for the better part of 97 minutes isn’t my idea of either a good time or a serious endeavor. Yet a few of my colleagues seem to be responding to Gus Van Sant’s Last Days the way some responded to The Passion of the Christ – taking it without a grain of salt or an ounce of irony. But it’s the grunge version of the Christ story, so that makes it hip.

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times writes that it’s about the “resurrection of Gus Van Sant,” the “mystery of human consciousness,” the “ecstasy of creation,” and “how sorrow sometimes goes hand in hand with the sublime.” Even a compulsive jokester like the New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane sounds like he just stepped out of Sunday school, writing, “Some of the motion has a hypnotizing grace,” and when the camera retreats from a house where Blake (Pitt) is noodling distractedly on his guitar, “We might as well be overhearing him at prayer.” When Blake finally dies we see “his soul, as naked as a baby, rise languidly from his broken body and clamber out of the frame.” All of which, I suppose, adds up to Mel Gibson lite.… Read more »

Anthony Mann/Victor Mature

THE LAST FRONTIER, directed by Anthony Mann, with Victor Mature (1955, 97 min.)

Spurred by the enthusiasm of Jean-Pierre Coursodon, posting in the chat group “a film by,” I follow his lead and also see Anthony Mann’s THE LAST FRONTIER for the first time, and I wind up basically agreeing with him: the film is a lot better than its reputation warrants (for one thing, some of the CinemaScope landscapes are breathtaking), and Victor Mature is especially good in it. In fact, it seems pretty clear that the fact that this movie has such an unfashionable cast -– not just Mature, but also Guy Madison, Robert Preston, and James Whitmore, which the relatively fashionable Anne Bancroft can’t quite offset -– has something to do with its apparently low place in the Anthony Mann canon. (The fact that the film has an imposed and unsatisfying ending doesn’t help either, but this is so perfunctory that I find it easy to overlook; Mann almost seems to glide right past it.)

LastFrontierMature

Mature plays a Noble Savage here (a trapper who joins the U.S. Cavalry as a scout), and many people either forget or don’t know that he virtually began his career as a D.W.… Read more »