Stumbling and mumbling his way through a part that never calls for a line of clear dialogue, Pitt plays Blake as something of a feral creature, wandering through the near-empty rooms of a house that he shares with a group of spacey hangers-on.
The phone rings and isn't answered; at one point a salesman for the Yellow Pages shows up, mistaking Blake for the former owner of the house.
Even though Van Sant is clearly paying homage to Cobain's purity of spirit here, the question remains of just what he's trying to accomplish in so ritualistically revisiting his death.
As he did in his last film, "Elephant," which recapitulated the Columbine school shootings in a similar thinly fictionalized fashion, Van Sant is embarking on a bold narrative experiment, obsessively ruminating on the same moments over and over again, doubling back on long, uninterrupted scenes to subtly change their valence.
As depicted by Van Sant, Cobain -- who projected a disarming persona of integrity, independence and vulnerability even as he became a hugely successful rock star and legendary drug addict -- certainly fits the role of a Christlike figure.
In a transfixing performance, the actor Michael Pitt, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Cobain, portrays his alter ego as the gentle, doomed symbol of transcendence and sacrifice.
(Van Sant deserves credit not only for handling Cobain's suicide with tact but also for referring to his heroin use obliquely but unmistakably.) More than an exploration of Cobain's inner life, "Last Days" may be most memorable as one of the screen's best representations of celebrity sycophants, the lumpen hipsters who have such a talent for sponging off the rich and famous.
Cobain's death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1994 has provoked endless beer-sodden speculation and even a malicious documentary suggesting that he was murdered by his widow, Courtney Love.
The drug-addled rock star, wearing his wife's black slip and a pair of hunting boots, doesn't disabuse him, and the two engage in an absurd conversation about whether advertising in the phone book improved Blake's "business." After giving the question serious thought, the young multimillionaire on the verge of suicide concludes that success, finally, is subjective.
It's one of the few funny moments in a movie that is suffused with suffering, both physical and psychic.
Hunting images, from the heraldic paintings on the walls to the boots and cap that Blake wears, run through "Last Days," and throughout the film Blake is portrayed as a creature being pursued (and he is, by a private detective played by Ricky Jay).
For those interested in how far Van Sant goes in re-creating Cobain's friends and family, Love looms large here, in the form of a character named Blackie, who appears as a Shakespearean off-stage presence, shrieking into the other end of the telephone.