34 – Last Night

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“What I do find pathetic is people who, as soon as they hear that the world is ending, they rush out and try to hook up with someone like it was closing time at Studio 54”

Last Night is one of the films that hopefully this blog will point you in the direction of, a hidden gem. It’s a black comedy, that looks at the ridiculous nature of people and how they might deal with the end of the world, it is funny and poignant all at the same time.

I have a theory about American movies and the American mind: Americans use violence as a substitute for emotions. Canadians definitely don’t. So when Hollywood makes a movie about the end of the world, it comes in the form of conniving terrorists, invading aliens, hurtling meteors or even stomping reptiles, and it’s up to our muscle-bound, well-armed hero to shoot the evildoers down.

When Canadian Don McKellar makes a movie about the destruction of the world, the end is caused by . . . well, we don’t know what it’s caused by. It’s just coming, everybody knows it, and the question is, what does this knowledge bring out in the human psyche? How do we spend our last night on earth? We are told that the world will end, exactly at midnight, however there is no mention of how, there is clues, as in there is constant daylight now, so perhaps the earth is getting too close to the sun? It’s not important though, what we see is people’s emotions played out, and how the deal with the cataclysmic event, certain death.last-night

Part of the fun of “Last Night” is seeing how people use their last hours. Young mobs take to the street, mostly to party as if counting down the new year, but also to take advantage of the end of civilization. They overturn cars and some thrill-seekers wander around shooting people — and who’s to stop them? The government has become irrelevant and the victims are about to die anyway. We here the radio, a dj counting down his top 500 songs ever, which will end at midnight, the director David Cronenberg plays a gas employee, who goes to work diligently
to call every customer and assure them that there will be no interruption of service up to the end.

Callum Keith Rennie, plays a character who wants to fulfil every sexual fantasy he has ever had, he makes a list to fulfil them, he has no trouble finding willing partners.

“Just use the Internet,” he explains. “That’s what they made it for.”

And yet, true to their stereotype, many of these Canadians maintain a sense of propriety (if not sobriety) as they seek some final fulfilment. Everyone finds some personal way to spend the end, including a tense, stunning, unforgettable finish by the lead characters. But my other favourite is a minor character who takes over a concert hall and gives the piano recital he never got a chance to give in normal life. His surprising music provides a handful of listeners a transcendent serenade for the end of the world.

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In the end, a film that began light and irony-filled has grown tremendously in intensity. The final countdown — when people presumably are doing the things that most define them, in their infinite variety, as human beings — is as exhilarating as a great action movie, yet every fast-moving second is packed with significance. It’s an amazing expression of our humanity.

I would thoroughly recommend Last Night, it’s a different kind of apocalyptic film and begs the question what would you do, to spend those final months, weeks, hours, minutes. Its full of the black humour, which apocalyptic films do best.

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One Response to “34 – Last Night”

  1. Thanks for posting this — interesting play on the idea of last days. I had never heard of this film and will seek it out.

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