7.3 10
2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

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.

I’m Worse At What I Do Best

Fans of Nirvana will hate Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. It presents absolutely no new information about Kurt Cobain’s life, music, or death. Fans of Nirvana will love Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. It’s built of harrowingly personal material, a portrait of its subject up-close to a degree that has little precedent in the realm of rock documentaries. Cobain and Nirvana’s music is woven into the psychic fiber of an entire generation, their history and influence not so much beloved as they are mythologized, revered. That creates a burden of expectations that few nonfiction filmmakers would envy.

Director Brett Morgen ducks most potential obstacles by avoiding nearly every cliche we’ve come to expect from biographical documentaries about musicians. This is simply Cobain’s story, literally from the cradle to the grave, taking on his point of view as much as it can. Morgen’s approach was made possible by the cooperation of Courtney Love, Cobain’s oft-hated wife, who gave the director access to reams of Cobain’s personal creations. The breadth of material is astonishing — home movies, drawings, recordings, photos, journal entries, buried songs, and more, all going back to the man’s childhood. Morgen and co-editor Joe Beshenkovsky have worked these raw ingredients into a cinematic mixtape, 27 years of ruminations condensed into a two-hour diary.

The result is a sensory blast that’s nearly assaultive at times. Like The Last Waltz, this is a film intended to be played LOUD. It’s barely-filtered emotion spilling out of the screen onto the viewer. It doesn’t bother to educate about what Nirvana is, painting only the broad strokes of its development. Kurt Cobain the man is its focus, and it makes you live inside his tortured head. Thus, the brief nods to documentary convention, mainly interview segments with Cobain’s friends and family, stand out all the more. They are almost unwelcome distractions, in fact. But they are at a fortunate minimum, bumps on a strange, riveting road.

Crew

Brett Morgen
Director

Cast

Dave Grohl
Himself
Kurt Cobain
Himself (archived footage)