Friday, May 15, 2015

Sean Kelly

Doc Thoughts: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

kurt_cobain_montage_of_heckThe story of Nirvana-frontman Kurt Cobain is told in his old words in Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.  Utilizing Cobain’s own art, music, journals, Super 8 films and audio montages, director Brett Morgen constructs this stylized biography of the late singer’s life.  From his early days in Aberdeen, Washington to his marriage to Courtney Love, the film reveals the human being behind the Nirvana frontman.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a fully authorized biography, which sets out to tell the definitive story of the Nirvana frontman.  It has now been more than two decades since Kurt Cobain’s suicide and there is still much enigma over what exactly was going on in Cobain’s head.  Using old journal entries, home movies, and audio recordings, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck focuses primarily on Cobain’s private life.  The film features interviews with many individuals in his life, including his parents, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, and Courtney Love.  The film also features a number of animated re-enactments, which uses audio of Cobain to essentially bring the singer back to life.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck really has the right title, since the film is a mix of many different elements.  The film features everything from traditional talking head interviews to grainy performance footage to multiple animated sequences.  In fact, the animated re-enactments, which have a rotoscoped feel to them, are probably the most impressive element of the film.  The film also makes heavy use of old home movie footage, which shows everything from Cobain as a kid to his time with Courtney Love.  The latter is both intriguing and disturbing, since it showed that Kurt and Courtney clearly loved each other, even though it’s apparent that they were also often high on drugs.

While the film does have the noticeable absence of Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is less about Nirvana the band and more about Kurt Cobain the person.  As such, the film’s interviews focuses more on the people that were personally important to Cobain’s life, such as his parents, Krist Novoselic, who was Cobain’s friend before his bandmate, and of course Courtney Love.  It would have been interesting to get the opinions of Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain, who is a producer on the film (and apparently not much of a Nirvana fan).  That said, it is still interesting to hear what these individuals have to say about Cobain.

Not surprisingly, the soundtrack of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is made up of Nirvana’s songs, even though the film occasionally would use an alternate version, such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sung by a children’s choir.  Particularly poignant is the use of the song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” from the band’s MTV Unplugged performance to end the film on a somewhat haunting note.  While there is probably not much new to be learned about Kurt Cobain in Montage of Heck, it does provide a visually interesting peak into his personal life.

★ ★ ★ ★ | LIKED IT

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck opens today at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and Cineplex Yonge and Dundas

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).