June 12th, 2015 | Film | 0 Comments
The Kurt Cobain doc Montage of Heck may have been “90% bullshit“, but in any case, it wasn’t all bullshit. There was a Kurt Cobain. He was born in Aberdeen, Washington. He had a nice childhood, apparently. His parents divorced. His adolescence was difficult. He moved to Olympia with his girlfriend at the time. He made music. He started a band called Nirvana. They got famous. He met and married Courtney Love. They had a kid. He committed suicide in 1994 (or did he?). This much is true, it seems.
Montage of Heck works best when it acts like a straight documentary with talking heads, pictures, and home movies detailing Cobain’s childhood and adolescence. But Montage of Heck isn’t a straight doc, replete as it is with animated sequences often narrated by what at least seems to be Cobain’s own voice. If the episodes he details in these sequences are true, they offer some of the most interesting and shocking insight into Cobain’s world and personality. Even if they’re just fictional Cobain stories, they serve a similar function, and provide some fascinating insight about what went on inside Cobain’s mind when he wasn’t writing songs.
Sometimes the intermingling of this animated footage with the talking heads and home movies – all spliced together in spastic, 90’s MTV fashion – is pretty neat. But it gets a little tiring. And it perhaps doesn’t add up to the stylish, grand testament to Cobain’s life that the filmmakers and viewers want it to be. The doc feels a little odd-bodied, with the back-end dominated by home movies and Nirvana footage, lacking the talking heads commentary that provided such interesting context to the childhood and adolescent portion of the movie. As much as Montage focused on Cobain and Love’s love and marriage, it felt like there was still more to them left unexplored. Both were such odd, interesting characters – and the film’s home movies vividly display that – was there not more to say about their relationship? More analysis to be given? Outside perspectives, rather than just Love’s and Krist Novoselic‘s?
Strangely, I came away from the film liking Cobain less. Not even because of things like the ‘sex with the slow girl’ scene, but maybe because he seemed less interest, weighty than I wanted him to. I liked the Cobain I met in AJ Schnack‘s 2006 doc Kurt Cobain: About A Son, which featured no footage of Nirvana at all. I remember seeing it in Toronto at The Royal, with author Michael Azzerad (Come As You Are, Our Band Could Be Your Life) – who conducted the interviews that the film basically just provides visual accompaniment for – in the theatre, introducing the film and doing a Q&A after. I remember him saying something like, “When I started talking to Kurt, I thought, “I know this guy.” This wasn’t Kurt Cobain: rock star, drug addict, tortured artist. This was a real person.” Watching Montage Of Heck, I wanted that feeling again, of meeting the man behind the myth. But Montage Of Heck doesn’t quite manage to pin ‘Cobain: the man’ down to the extent I would have liked it to.