Notes on Gus Van Sant's film June, 2005By James HowardAs the seventh person prematurely walked out of the Toison D'or UGC Cinema screen 1 in Brussels,where I was watching
, it had become completely clear that if nothing else, Gus Van Sant hadsucceeded in utterly confusing and warping the minds of the popcorn toting troglodytes who had beenlusting after a juicy, salacious and utterly conventional account of the end of Kurt Cobains life. Theyhad smelt blood and had been disappointed. Yes, I, smugly, cheered this particular victory to myself.The first two people left ten minutes into the film, whilst another group ,consisting of four teenagers,one of whom looked like a neo-conservative hawk on his way to the white house situation room, indrooling anticipation of bombing a third world country that had dared to criticise the American
, lasted a good forty minutes. Well done. If this film, which premiered at Cannes in May of thisyear, had had to have been pitched to a stereotypical demonic Hollywood studio Executive, it wouldhave gone something like this:
Fat Cat Honcho
(smoking cigar and counting money): Okay break it down, twenty-five words or less,what you got?
: Okay, Michael Pitt, who was dropping acid and acting crazy in
, plays Kurt Cobain. Hewalks around his decaying mansion, plays his guitar a bit, wears a dress and hides from his friends. Hethen proceeds to walk around the forest that surrounds his mansion for a bit. Oh, wait,the best bit is;nothing happens. Nothing at all! It's genius. It's like Warhol's
meets Fassbinder! And thegreatest thing is that before the audience even sees the movie they know that he kills himself! So thereis no pay off, no phoney twist!
Fat Cat Honcho
: What about tits, ass and guns? Car chases? (I realize this is a tired cliché, readers butneeds be)
Fat Cat Honcho:
So this is like, an art house movie? Fuck that.
: You fucking guys are all the same. This a film about human suffering, alienation and thefutility of celebrity,godamnit, conveyed through internalised emotion and objective voyeurism, noless.
Fat Cat Honcho
: Take it to those commies at HBO, asshole and get out of my office!And Gus Van Sant did...As you probably know
has stirred up expectation and interest due the fact that it wassupposedly inspired by the suicide of Kurt Cobain. Michael Pitt, physically aping Cobain with his longgreasy blond hair and, at one point sporting the red and black striped shirt that Cobain bought inCamden market and wore at the 1992 Reading Festival., plays the heroin addicted rock star, Blake,who, seeped in terminal depression and in the throws of addiction, shuffles, at times unintentionallybearing an uncanny gaitly resemblance to Ozzy Osborne, around his vast home and the surroundingwoodlands whilst mumbling to himself (subtitles
should have been offered in English as well asFrench and Dutch ,Herr Van Sant) and attempting to hide from his manager, a private investigator andhis band mates before his inevitable suicide that sadly leaves the viewer completely cold.
is a film of startling, and often irrelevant, long voyeuristic and sterile sequences in whichconsecutive scenes have no connection in terms of narrative and characters are utterly redundant. Thefilm is marked out by the aforementioned long, haunting and lingering takes with Van Sant oftenholding frame for three or four minutes of, for example, Pitt,sitting, alone and alienated in the woodsstaring into the sky, disconnected from the surrounding world. In another instance Pitt, with his back tothe camera, plays guitar, building a savage and emotive cacophony of white noise reminiscent of MyBloody Valentine's
that manages to reflect the sadness that has eroded him, whilst Van Santscamera slowly pulls back from the window outside the house from which we have been watching.Whilst Pitt continues to play ,Van Sant pulls back the camera further from the window into a long shotas we watch Pitt become further and further away still playing ,for a full
minutes. It’s an