In his mansion and forested estate, a rock star (played by Michael Pitt and named Blake, but obviously supposed to be Kurt Cobain) wanders about in a terminal drug stupor. Hangers on, business associates, Mormons and salesmen besiege him, but his flees human contact, withdrawing completely into himself.
The movie plays out as if directed by its subject: quiet, mumbling, meandering. As with Gus Van Sant’s last two films – Gerry and Elephant – the tone is minimalist and…meditative, with lots of long tracking shots and spare dialogue. Van Sant risks accusations of exploitation by presenting such a barely fictionalized subject, as he did with Elephant and its Columbine recreation. But whereas that film was compelling, this one is stupefying, ultimately being about nothing other than its own pictorial beauty. The reviewer for the Onion AV club called this film “a life aestheticized.” I would call it a life anaesthetized.
The sound comes in both 5.1 and 2.0 versions, but there is very little difference between the two, thanks to an almost complete lack of surround. The rear speakers are far more active during the making-of featurette. The sound is clear and the dialogue has minimal distortion, and the film is so quiet that a big surround mix isn’t really necessary, but there are very obvious opportunities missed (such as when Pitt is swimming near a waterfall in the opening scene).
The picture could be sharper. Much of the film is in long shot, and the faces are blurrier than they need be even in this instance. The colors are good and the blacks are terrific, and there is no visible grain or edge enhancement. Both fullscreen and anamorphic widescreen aspect ratios are provided.
Not a heck of a lot here. The making-of featurette, though meditative in tone, is still basically a promotional tool. The behind-the-scenes footage of “The Long Dolly Shot” is interesting but has no narration. Pitt’s band Pagoda has a video (“Happy Song”), and there’s a deleted scene. That’s it. All of the extras are on the fullscreen side of the disc. The menu’s main screen is scored.
Fans of Nirvana will probably want to scope this out, even if they don’t like it. It is a carefully wrought film, but one that feels almost as dead as its subject.
Special Features List
- Making-of Featurette
- Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Music Video
- Deleted Scene