I don't see many movies, but I did manage to catch Gus Van Sant's new picture, Last Days
, a fictionalized account of the last days of Kurt Cobain's life. I thought it was absolutely wonderful, though I'd hesitate to give it an unqualified recommendation - while I liked it, I can imagine that a lot of people would hate it. Don't see it if you tend not to like movies where very little actually, you know, happens.
Mostly, the camera just follows Kurt - er, 'Blake' - around his house and the surrounding woods while he camps out, plays music, eats Cocoa Krispies, ignores the four hangers-on who seem to have permanently encamped in his dilapidated mansion, and avoids a private investigator who is trying to locate him. (For those who know some of the details about Cobain's actual last few days, a few of the characters in the film seem to be based on real people - namely, Michael 'Cali' DeWitt, Dylan Carlson, and Tom Grant.)
Van Sant is obviously a talented director, though he can be a frustrating one - what the hell was up with that Psycho
remake, anyway? Again, the lack of much plot or even dialogue will put a lot of people off; Michael Pitt (who plays Blake) has only a handful of lines; his character is for the most part silent (well, he does mumble a lot). Luckily, Cobain's story is well-known enough that Van Sant doesn't really need to fill us in on it.
WARNING: MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Michael Pitt and Kim Gordon in Last Days
What's especially interesting to me, though, about Last Days
is that it is thoroughly ambiguous, leaving everything up in the air - including, believe it or not, the manner of Blake/Kurt's death.
Rumors that Cobain's death wasn't actually a suicide began almost immediately, and I, like almost everyone else, dismissed them as the same kind of nonsense that always seems to follow celebrity deaths - Tupac is still alive, etc. But when I happened to take a closer look at the case, I realized that it wasn't at all obvious that Cobain killed himself, and that he actually was, in all probability, murdered.
Now, this isn't some grand conspiracy theory; I don't think the Seattle PD is intentionally covering up the truth or anything like that. I just think they got it wrong. A look at the facts of the case reveals a thoroughly planned, if crude, attempt to make a murder look like a suicide. Unfortunately, it isn't always that difficult to fool investigators.
It happens often. You might recall the man who confessed
to killing his girlfriend after seeing Mel Gibson's The Passion.
He had made it look as though she had hanged herself, and before his confession, the investigators believed that she had. Another prominent example is the singer Elliott Smith
, whose death was originally ruled a suicide but is now looking like murder. (Do people often commit suicide by stabbing themselves repeatedly in the chest?)Last Days
seems to suggest that Cobain wasn't alone when he died. The movie doesn't show his actual demise, but it does show him entering the greenhouse where he dies, and there appears to be someone else already in there. Later, we see a figure in red - which the Cobain character wasn't wearing - standing up in the greenhouse, as another character (Scott) looks on knowingly.
And there's something about the Scott character that seems vaguely sinister. He seems to know more than he lets on, and after Blake's death is very keen to put as much distance between himself and the 'crime scene' as possible.
I was also very surprised to read the following snippet
of an interview with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, a friend of Cobain's who appears in the movie:
UNCUT: The film doesn't explain why Kurt killed himself. Can you?
GORDON: I don't even know that he killed himself. There are people close to him who don't think that he did...
UNCUT: Do you believe the theory that Kurt was killed by someone else?
GORDON: I do, yes.
As far as I know, this makes Kim the only friend of Kurt's, as well as the only prominent musician, to publicly question the ruling that Cobain's death was a suicide.
I won't go into the facts of the case here, unless somebody wants to talk about it; they're easily available on the internet anyway - the Wikipedia entry
on Cobain provides a decent jumping-off point. But mark my words, the lid will blow off this story at some point. It would be nice if Van Sant's film, or Gordon's remarks, provided the catalyst for a greater level of exposure for what is, aside from the notoriety surrounding it, a case of somebody getting away with murder.