Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
May 10, 2015 1:28 PM - Subscribe

The authorized documentary on late Guitar/lead singer Kurt Cobain from his early days in Aberdeen Washington to his success and downfall with Grunge band Nirvana. Official site/HBO PAGE.
posted by Artw (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's weird, maybe it's because I'm older. This completely took the shine off of Cobain for me. I'm still trying to figure my way through it.
posted by nevercalm at 3:21 PM on May 10, 2015

I was disappointed by the documentary. I don't feel I learned anything new, and the many of the animations were just distracting.
posted by armacy at 5:15 PM on May 10, 2015

nevercalm, I haven't seen the film but I have read a few interviews with Frances Bean Cobain and I sort of thought that was part of the point of the movie -- to make her father into a real human being again rather than the heroic mad music genius that he had been mythologized into.

Maybe it's hard to have a father who you know the truth about but almost everyone else idolizes.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2015

For me, the best thing about this film was less taking the shine off of Kurt Cobain and more putting his work into context – the context that's usually lacking, whether people loved or hated him. In large part he was a public figure of intrigue because people saw him as this broken hero; and of course he was a dangerous degenerate to plenty of boomers (and to the tabloids, really). But Kurt wasn't really a pre-fab rock god; he was a kid who poured an enormous amount of love and creativity into his music. That love – the dedication and hard work and effort and drive – is what gets lost when he's painted as a slacker hero. And the first half of Montage of Heck did an extraordinary job evoking that and filling in the picture – the somewhat annoying animated sketches notwithstanding – to show him as a guy who really put his heart into building something worthwhile.

The second half was a bit worse, frankly, and I gather there are a variety of reasons for that: not wanting to step on toes of living relatives, people not wanting to offend others in the industry maybe. They covered the heroin use well enough, although that's not necessarily groundbreaking. I guess the interview of Courtney Love was honest and well handled; she's a bit of a weirdo, and tends to reveal stuff in these blithe ways. "I stopped doing heroin while I was pregnant," I think she says – I guess implying pretty heavily that she did in fact do heroin at least at the beginning of the pregnancy? What really felt left out was the coverage of Kurt's actual work during the time he was in the spotlight – the troubles with Geffen, the whirlwind process of producing In Utero, etc. They had Krist Novoselic there, so they could have dealt with it a bit, but they seem to have preferred to spend more time on the (sometimes endearing, sometimes creepy) home movies of the family.

And about Dave Grohl – Brett Morgen can claim all day that Grohl just wasn't available at the right time, that they got the interview "too late for inclusion," but that seems a bit silly to me. They started production on this in 2007, and yet they didn't get around to asking him to sit for interviews until 2014? I know it's tempting see in this some slight of Grohl, or some underhanded motive, but I suspect it's as simple as Morgen just not being interested in the inner workings of the band at all, and somehow not feeling like Grohl could tell him much.

Anyway, interesting documentary.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2015

I never cared for NIrvana (though I do recognize why many people absolutely loved them) but found this documentary somewhat interesting since I knew practically nothing about the band or Kurt and I love documentaries about music, music history, bands, and the people in them, when done well.

This was better than I thought, considering no Grohl, but though I can totally see a documentary on the Smiths with no Morrissey, and nothing would have to be explained, no Grohl speaks to either absolute incompetence or absolute shenanigans.
posted by juiceCake at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2015

What's the context for his politics and what seemed to me to be a somewhat ahead-of-the-curve social liberalism? In the Kathleen Hanna doc "The Punk Singer," she suggested that Cobain picked this up via hanging out with feminist groups in Olympia. Granted, Washington state was a "blue state" even in '88, when Bush overwhelmingly won the Electoral College vote, but some context would have been nice here. He wasn't hanging around the most progressive bunch in high school. That much was evident from the story involving the woman with the intellectual disability.

Other issues I had: Interviews with not only Grohl, but others in his musical community would have been welcome. (Only the interview with the first girlfriend felt unexpected and enlightening.) The implication that Cobain killed himself because Love thought about cheating on him was hard to swallow, for me at least.

All that being said, I think knowing that Cobain was more or less an abandoned child helped his story make much more sense to me, even if I don't think this will end any romanticization of Cobain's end.
posted by raysmj at 1:11 PM on May 11, 2015

Outside of Seattle there's not much blue to Washington at all.

I've been through Aberdeen, it has the look of the kind of backwater you want to escape from as soon possible.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on May 11, 2015

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