director Brett Morgen
I’d been reading about Brett Morgen’s documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, and felt interested. 21 years since his suicide, Cobain’s music and legacy have endured, and many films have been made about him. This film was the first to be authorized by his estate, to feature the music of Nirvana, and to have a pretty full cooperation of Courtney Love and other friends and family. It was also produced in part by his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.
Considering that I’d suffered through the insufferable Kurt & Courtney (1998), I felt I owed it to myself and the subject matter to at least see a film with some shred of integrity and dignity on the musician. (I’ll never watch another Nick Broomfield film ever again).
The film is intimate, having access to tons of home video and personal papers, notebooks, audio tapes to augment the interviews and archival information. In that sense, you do get a better sense of who Cobain was as a person. Really, a cool guy, a loner, but into interesting stuff, the kind of person who might have been fun to hang out with and watch a movie with or something.
Because really, wherever you get your information about who he is or was, it’s a construct. I recall when I first heard of Nirvana and when I first heard of people who had known Kurt in real life, the rumors and stories and whatnot. There is still very much the real person behind all that. A real person who got sucked into mainstream culture and celebrity essentially out of nowhere and succumbed to his many demons and shortcomings and fears despite his intensive gifts and talents.
Really, though, the film isn’t amazing. In fact, it’s kind of long and drawn out. Parts of it are more successful than others, and in the end, it doesn’t feel as definitive as it strives to be. The intimacy is achieved, though, I would say, and I’ve been listening to Nirvana and appreciating them and Cobain more since watching the film than I have for some time since.
It’s one of those things typical in my relationship with popular music. The more popular and ubiquitous it is, the harder time I have of having my personal relationship with it. But I’ve had that with Nirvana and I’m glad to have reestablished our relationship.