Gus Van Sant is undoubtedly one of the most exciting directors working today. I look forward to his work as much as any new effort by Cronenberg, von Trier or Nair. I love his polarizing films so much that I feel a little guilty for not making room for his phenomenal Last Days (#13) on my top ten, as it would have placed in a lesser year (both Elephant and Gerry appeared on my 2003 write-up; you know, the one that exists in my head). But this does not take anything away from his efforts here, both an homage to and a deconstruction of Kurt Cobain and his legacy of grunge rock (as touched upon in my review, see link below). The film will likely alienate viewers unable to bond with Michael Pitt's Blake, or Van Sant's distancing techniques. Yet, upon close consideration, these are extremely accessible human emotions and motifs that anyone can understand. The desire to return to nature, the loss of love, and the crippling nature of addiction are all explored here through a hypnotizing of repetitive images and sounds. Not much happens during the running time, but the singular sequences in and of themselves are stellar little vignettes, beautifully composed. Pay close attention to the use of sound in the film, and how effective the silences are. Pitt plays the rock star here (clearly a stand-in for Cobain), who spends much of the running time muttering to himself, either composing a great swansong to mark his end or simply rambling drug-induced non-sensicals (it is left to us to decide). When I say that the film is open and loose, I mean it as a positive attribute. As I see it, the piece is malleable to any interpretation as conceived of by the viewer. Is it a comedy? (I think so). A tragedy? A wash? Watch it for yourself, and then decide.
Link to original capsule Review