KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
An authorized documentary on the late musician Kurt Cobain, from his early days in Aberdeen, Washington to his success and downfall with the grunge band Nirvana.
Review by Louise Keller:
This in-depth look into the twisted, tormented world of Kurt Cobain is like a stream of consciousness - a trip of a film that above all, captures the essence of the workings of the mind of the Nirvana singer and guitarist. Its brilliance is in its ability to portray a sense of being inside Cobain's head, his music and the demons that plagued him, although the film is too long and repetitive, making us feel desperate to escape and come up for air. Die-hard fans will lap it up.
Brett Morgen's authorized documentary about Cobain's life is a mish-mash of performances, interviews, home movies, diary entries and sketches, some of which are animated with rotoscope in grotesque fashion. From his unsettled childhood, his love affair with music and compulsion to express himself, the film also canvasses his inability to deal with fame, his drug addiction and intense relationship with controversial singer, Courtney Love.
'He was super cute but carried himself like someone who doesn't know that,' Love says. The controversy of her heroin use through her pregnancy with their daughter Frances is also explored. Grunge John and Yoko, suggests one publication. We get a keen insight into their home life from candid, somewhat shocking home movie footage that includes Love exposing her breasts and Cobain smashing his guitar. It's impossible to turn away during the intimate scenes between Cobain, Love and the baby.
The film plays chronologically, beginning with an insight into the dysfunctional nature of Cobain's home life as a child in Aberdeen, Washington, as he is ping-ponged between parents to grandparents and relations. From the outset, the portrait drawn from hand-scrawled diary notes shows a disturbed child whose feelings of rejection lead him to a rebellious life of marijuana and stealing. Music is how he expresses his emotions - and in particular, his anger. 'The music is more important than being popular,' he says as the band Nirvana (formed in 1987, the year he first tried heroin) starts to achieve success. On stage the music explodes; he gyrates on the ground, long blond hair swaying like a mop.
'I'm lucky I had beer and wine,' says Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic; 'Kurt had heroin.' We are there for the hysteria, the crowds, the adulation, the media coverage, the packed out concerts. Then there is the release of Nirvana's extraordinarily successful Nevermind album in 1991. Fame is not easily handled. Dreams may come true but as the old adage says: be careful what you wish for.
Cobain's hand-written notes reveal a disturbed and troubled soul: 'notoriously fucked up; self destructive; alcoholic; heroin addict; overtly sensitive; frail; fragile; neurotic who at any minute is going to OD; jump off a roof, blow my head or all three at once.... 'kill yourself; kill yourself; I hate myself; I want to die; leave me alone.'
More than anything, it is our own observations from the previously unseen personal footage and diary notes that are the most revealing. The film's narrative stops before Cobain takes his own life in 1994 at the age of 27. It is impossible not to feel sad, watching this powerful and affecting doco that leaves a somewhat devastating view of Cobain, his music and times as it puts everything into context.
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KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (MA15+)
CAST: Documentary with Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Krist Novoselic
PRODUCER: Brett Morgen
DIRECTOR: Brett Morgen
SCRIPT: Brett Morgen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jim Whitaker
EDITOR: Joe Beshenkovsky, Brett Morgen
MUSIC: Jeff Danna
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 144 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: V extra
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 7, 2015