End of the Road

Lightness of being: Van Sant's existential Kurt Cobain movie is an opaque masterpiece

Where Elephant's kids are unwitting lambs to the slaughter, Blake knows as well as we do the foregone conclusion. Last Days' blurred sense of interior and exterior—its living-death conception of limbo—brings to mind another American masterpiece (with which it could have exchanged titles): Jarmusch's Dead Man, whose enigmatic hero happens to be called William Blake. Sacred allusions abound: the waterfall baptism (or final ablution?), the Mormon callers, the devotional ecstasy of the featured songs, and above all the climactic separation of body and skyward-bound soul. Not unlike William Blake, Van Sant risks religiosity and arrives at spiritual clarity—in a ghostly afterimage that transcends both the Christian notion of Ascension and the rock cliché of the stairway to heaven. Pointedly contradicting Cobain's Neil Young–quoting suicide note, Blake doesn't burn out—he fades away.

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