director Nick Broomfield
Nick Broomfield’s 1998 “documentary” Kurt & Courtney is pretty much outright exploitation film-making posing as truth-seeking. It’s also quite terrible as a film, completely void of insight, and sort of like a car wreck that you CAN turn your eyes away from.
When the film first came out in 1998, it was the first I’d heard of these Courtney Love murdered husband Kurt Cobain conspiracy theories, which apparently emanated primarily from Love’s scumbag father and a former detective on the case turned nut job. And of course these two people get a lot of screen time in the film.
Broomfield himself appears in the film quite a bit, apparently one of the directors who vanguarded this style of inserting the self into the documentary itself. Though Broomfield’s strategy was somewhat meta (making the film about making the film as much as about its primary subject), it develops a facile cheapness throughout. He claims to be seeking the truth, neither believing nor denying the likelihood of the conspiracy.
But from the start he plays a martyr card due to the amount of harassment that Love and her attorneys wielded throughout the process of trying to make the film. He couldn’t get the rights to Nirvana’s music, struggled for funding, had interview subjects threatened. So, it’s not to say he has no justification. But his approach is one of shoddy confrontation and total lack of ethical rigor. He finally confronts Love at an ACLU shindig, calling on the irony of her presenting there as she was known to intimidate, threaten, and attack journalists.
All the people who wind up appearing in the film seem to be the dregs of the world around Nirvana. The people shunned by Love and the other ex-bandmembers, hangers on, people getting their music into the movie as a replacement for the real deal.
The film is a shocking atrocity as documentary evidence, but as trash cinema, maybe there is something here. I think it’s funny that the term coined for the style of inserting the film-maker into the documentary is “Les Nouvelles Egotistes”, coined by Jon Ronson in Sight & Sound in 2002. Nothing seems more apt.
Such trash is either just utterly despicable or possibly ironic genius.