Films

KURT’S FINAL DAZE

After 11 years, there’s no closure for Nirvana fans

SHANDA DEZIEL August 15 2005
Films

KURT’S FINAL DAZE

After 11 years, there’s no closure for Nirvana fans

SHANDA DEZIEL August 15 2005

KURT’S FINAL DAZE

Films

After 11 years, there’s no closure for Nirvana fans

SHANDA DEZIEL

CAN FRANCES BEAN Cobain overcome the sins of her parents? Although her father, Kurt, selfishly killed himself 11 years ago, he remains the poster boy for the pained and alienated youth set. And while her celebrity basket case mother, Courtney, is supposedly a year clean and sober, her credibility ran out a long time ago. But 12-yearold Frances, as seen in the rare magazine photo, looks adjusted, collected and cool. Certainly not, so far, anything like what Kurt predicted in his suicide note: “I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become.”

Could it be that she’s actually better without his bad influence? The question surfaces in Last Days, director Gus Van Sant’s take on the final hours of Nirvana’s front man. A caring record executive (grunge rock matriarch Kim Gordon, of Sonic Youth) asks the tortured singer (named Blake, but meant to be Cobain) if he’s spoken with his daughter. He says he’s talked to her on the phone: “I do the voices she likes. I tell her I miss her.” Lest we feel sorry for this dad who’s done his last Donald Duck impression, Gordon’s character shoots back, “Do you tell her I’m sorry that I’m a rock ’n’ roll cliché?”

Most people don’t view Cobain as just another talented junkie. Eleven years after he shot himself at home in Seattle, he’s a mythic saviour who died for a generation’s collective angst—even though one of the reasons he took his life was his hatred of their idolatry. In the pantheon of rock star deaths, Cobain is up there, arguably right after Elvis and John Lennon and before Jimi, Jim and Janis—and the only one whose death

was ruled a suicide. And maybe that’s the reason it’s so hard to get closure. We eat up every possible explanation, every detail of his drug-fuelled behaviour, and every ridiculous hiccup from those he once associated with.

And there’s no shortage of people talking for and about Kurt. In Nick Broomfield’s damning 1998 documentary, Kurt & Courtney, he argues that the latter was more than

COULD it be that

Frances is actually better off without Kurt’s bad influence? The question surfaces in Van Sant’s movie.

just a harpy wife, but also an accomplice who put a hit out on her husband. Love has spent years fighting publicly with the remaining Nirvana members, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, claiming she speaks for Cobain when it comes to the band’s legacy. And most recently, Grohl made revelations about his relationship with Cobain while promoting his latest Foo Fighters album. In July’s Rolling Stone, he says, “I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this,” then goes on to describe how he got very little praise from Kurt and how he thought the singer died in

Rome days before the suicide. These confessions were passed on as insight.

Maybe that’s the reason Van Sant’s movie is so powerful—it doesn’t pretend to offer more than an actor, Michael Pitt (Dawson’s Creek, The Dreamers), who dresses, looks and sounds like Cobain. But without a plot or much dialogue, viewers who retain at least some fascination with the tormented Kurt are forced to do what they didn’t know they wanted to do: envision the last days of Cobain for themselves. As with Van Sant’s previous two experimental movies about death, Gerry and Elephant, Last Days is a test of patience. But aspects of it that might be considered frustrating can also be viewed as liberating. Kurt mumbles constantly— inevitably you start to make things out, but I doubt I heard what the person next to me did. He roams around the house and woods for an indeterminate amount of time, allowing everyone their own take on how many days or hours he was lost. When the phone rings, it could be Love, Grohl, Novoselic, Kurt’s mom, his manager or his lawyer on the other end. It’s up to you.

But when the character roams into a child’s room, gazes at a baby’s shoe and snuggles a kitten in his daughter’s empty bed, there’s little pleasure left in this choose-your-own Cobain adventure. The one absolute is that Frances had the misfortune of having a doped-up, unfit father—a guy who saved rock ’n’ roll, but couldn’t save himself. M