Last Days (2005)

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Released 8-Feb-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On The Set
Deleted Scenes
Music Video
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 92:46 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gus Van Sant
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Michael Pitt
Lukas Haas
Asia Argento
Scott Green
Nicole Vicius
Ricky Jay
Ryan Orion
Harmony Korine
Rodrigo Lopresti
Kim Gordon
Adam Friberg
Andy Friberg
Thadeus A. Thomas
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Rodrigo Lopresti


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 3.1 L-C-R-Sub (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Following Gerry and Elephant, Gus Van Sant's Last Days marks the culmination (so far at least) of the director's recent exploration of the banality of life and, more importantly, death. Kurt Cobain's suicide acts as inspiration for the film, but Last Days offers no answers or insight into Cobain's life, choosing to focus, even more so than its predecessors, on mundane happenings and conversations, treating death as an event no more dramatic than making instant noodles.

    Michael Pitt stars as "rock and roll cliché" Blake. Holed up in his deteriorating mansion, he spends his final days stumbling between rooms, listening to a Yellow Pages representative, dodging Mormon missionaries, and otherwise passing time in a daze, barely aware of his friends and band-mates (Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, and Scott Patrick Green) sharing the house with him. Life seems to have lost all value and meaning and the only moment in which Blake seems to connect in any way with reality is while he sings alone. Drugs, mental illness, or just too much Sartre and existential angst, it is never quite clear what is behind Blake's dissociation from the world. From the opening frame, though, it is very clear that death will be a welcome release for Blake, whether the end comes by his own hand or otherwise. (A close viewing offers a hint or two that Blake's suicide - and Cobain's - is not so cut and dry).

    Van Sant's camera captures Blake's decline beautifully in slow pans and limited movement (although, as noted below, the aspect ratio has been cropped significantly). Scenes are repeated from different perspectives (like Elephant) and an emphasis on long cuts adds to the pervading atmosphere of slow decay. Last Days is beautiful to watch but a tragic experience, largely because however wasteful Blake and Cobain's deaths were, the world goes on unaffected.

    Michael Pitt's performance is pitch-perfect and his resemblance to Cobain is uncanny. Although he says little and does even less, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. The rest of the cast, too, are excellent and together produce a highly realistic atmosphere. This realism may be off-putting for some - like real life, nothing much happens at all and in many ways, Last Days is perfectly boring. But if you can bring yourself to relax and allow the film to just wash over you, Last Days is a highly affecting work. Just don't go looking for a Kurt Cobain biopic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    What is otherwise a very good transfer is let down by Universal's unfortunate decision to present Last Days in an altered aspect ratio. The film's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 has been cut to 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Framing is not affected too adversely, but still . . .

    The transfer appears just a little soft, but not disastrously by any means. Shadow detail is generally very good, but low level noise can sometimes become highly visible. Blacks are also generally deep and solid for interior shots. Exterior night scenes appear more blue than black and exhibit higher levels of noise. Colours are soft and natural, never bright or heavily saturated.

    Some mild posterization is visible here and there and 16:38 shows some aliasing. Wooden panels in the house appear to exhibit a little in the way of noise reduction artefacts. The video transfer is otherwise fantastic, unblemished by film artefacts.

    No subtitles are recorded. The feature is divided into seventeen chapters and the layer change occurs at 60:26. It's in the middle of a scene, but my player didn't even blink.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Two audio tracks have been included: English Dolby Digital 3.1 and 2.0. Both are of high quality. I listened to the 3.1 track and sampled the other.

    Dialogue is crystal clear and carries no hiss at all. Blake mumbles the vast majority of his lines, but it is probably not important to know exactly what he says. His state of mind is effectively conveyed, in any case. All of the sound appears to have been recorded "live" and audio deliberately incorporates all the random bumps and knocks of a lived in house, the sound of wind and rustling trees and passing cars. Audio sync is accurate throughout.

    The film doesn't incorporate a score as such but relies on Pitt's instrumental work and singing (which are very good) and several songs played on television or on record (ranging from Boyz-II-Men to Velvet Underground). Opening and closing credits include The King Singers performing "La Guerre," a beautiful renaissance choral piece. Both the music and the sound have been crafted together perfectly.

    Although a full surround track could have been fantastic, the 3.1 track produces the original audio very nicely. The 2.0 carries a little ambient sound in the rears, but the 3.1 sounds much better, with far more depth thanks to its higher bit rate. Bumps and closing doors sound across the entire sound stage and the audio is well balanced. Bass information in the 3.1 track is relatively limited, but brings the subwoofer to life in the club scene near the end.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu Animation & Audio

Featurette-Making Of

    (20:13) - 4x3, letterboxed. Not bad at all, but mostly focused on how liberating it is to work with Gus Van Sant. Enjoyable for its candid interaction with most of the players. Also shows clips in their original framing.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    (8:41) - 4x3, letterboxed. Behind the scenes footage without commentary focused on Blake's daytime jam scene.

Deleted Scenes

    (8:06) 4x3. An alternate angle of the same scene shown in the behind the scenes featurette. Interesting as it shows how Pitt mixed the sounds, but I much prefer the shot that made the film.

Music Video

    (4:27) - 4x3. Michael Pitt and his band get a music clip. Greater experts than I will have to comment on how similar his style is to Nirvana's. I didn't really get into this clip at all.

Theatrical Trailer

    (1:51) - 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release includes the film full frame (1.33:1) on one side and a 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced version on the other. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and English and French Dolby Digital 2.0 and it includes English and Spanish subtitles. The extras are identical. Since Region 1 includes the film in its original form, I'd call it the winner.

Summary

    Not to everyone's taste and not even about Kurt Cobain. But given a chance, Last Days is highly rewarding viewing.

    Video is very good but cropped from the film's original aspect ratio.

    Audio is excellent.

    Extras are relatively interesting but not likely to gain much repeat viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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