June 16, 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)


Kurt Cobain has been called "the voice of a disaffected generation."

I was on the young side of that generation, but part of it nonetheless. I was that teenager that thought Kurt Cobain spoke directly to me. Of course, he was dead before I ever got there, but you know, the music, man. I remember visiting the EMP Museum in Seattle right after it opened and seeing all the Nirvana guitar and song notes they had on display there (because you know, Seattle). It seemed so cool at the time, like I was getting up close and personal with Nirvana itself. My teenage self was oh-so emo-ed out about it.

My point is, I spent 4+ years of my life listening to Nirvana non-stop and even I had a hard time sitting through this documentary. It wasn't just the rapid-fire imagery (that made me feel like I was on heroin alongside Kurt), but my discomfort at being shown such private moments of his life.

Before the movie began, it flashed the little list of warnings: N, AC, AL for Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language. I instantly knew the nudity was going to be Courtney Love's boobs. I was not wrong. My problem, however, stemmed more from the fact that those videos (that only occasionally did not involve Courtney Love being naked) were private home videos -- memories for his family that seemed almost like a violation to watch. Granted, I'm not famous, but after my death, would I want people who didn't personally know me to watch videos taken in my home, of my kids and me? Add to that, the fact that Cobain was outspoken about his want of privacy and shunned the fame that came along with his success, and I can't help but think he would not want his private moments or thoughts from his diaries shown in public either.

Maybe it's because I'm not a teenager anymore that I feel celebrities are not public property. I don't think we have the right to know everything about someone just because we buy their music or watch their movies.

That being said, the documentary does offer a lot of insight into Cobain's thoughts by highlighting clips of his journals. It is tragic to see his obviously brilliant, yet disturbed mind in his own words. (Though again, without his personal commentary on the matter who knows how out of context things were taken.) And while I'm glad it showcased interviews with Courtney Love, his band mate Krist Novoselic, and his family, I wonder about the conspicuous absence of Dave Grohl. Also, not to further pull down Courtney Love (because Lord knows she's put up with enough hate in her lifetime), but with only her word and her videos shown about their relationship, you can't help but wonder if she used this as an opportunity to paint herself in a better light. For example, saying she was already clean and off heroin by the time she met Kurt and he pulled her back into it? Anything's possible, but you know, hard to trust the source when she's saying things on camera that her daughter will hear...

And while the additional commentary from Cobain's former girlfriend Tracy Marander was an unexpected bonus (for me, not having watched previous Nirvana documentaries), she would have been more helpful had she used any kind of animation in her voice when talking. Like, any. At all.

Ultimately, the whole thing goes for too long, especially without a narrator or some kind of framework to guide us through. The musical interludes are great because if you're watching it, you obviously like Nirvana, but there is too much of that and not enough actual information being presented. I know the director wanted Cobain's stuff to "speak for itself," but then I probably could have read through this same stuff in less time than it took me to watch this movie.

Final word: Unless you are a die-hard Kurt Cobain fan (just Cobain, not Nirvana in general) or a really artsy, aspiring filmmaker, you can skip it.

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