I was sitting in a theatre in downtown Toronto watching Brett Morgen’s doc on the life and times of Kurt Cobain when my phone buzzed right in the middle of a scene where Kurt, Courtney and Baby Frances were having a bath together. It was a text from the Widow Cobain herself.
I texted back: “I’m just watching you and Kurt and Frances right now.” Her reply: “MoH? It’s so sad.”
She would know, of course. And I agree. Montage of Heck is very sad. By the time ends you’re convinced that Kurt was damaged and doomed beyond repair from the start. At the same time, though, it was that damage that made him into the artist he was. There are at least two points in the film where he worries that if he’s happy or that if his stomach pains go away he’ll lose his edge as a performer. Mental illness? Or just someone who was ultra-ultra-sensitive to…well, everything.
Now that the film is on HBO you can decide for yourself. Meanwhile, here’s the final word on the subject from Pamela Chelin writing for Nightflight:
Filmmaker Brett Morgen’s (The Kid Stays in the Picture) compelling documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, which took 8 years to make, named for a musical melange Cobain recorded on a 4-track recorder in 1988, is an intimate look at one of the most important rock icons who has ever lived. Using old super 8 film footage, Cobain’s journals, cassettes of Cobain talking about himself, Cobain’s visual art combined with interviews with those who were closest to Cobain in addition to media clips, Morgen paints a colorful portrait of a complicated and reluctant rock star who defies being defined in black and white. Skillfully and tastefully, Morgen reveals but stays out of Cobain’s story while bringing to light what motivated the tender and empathetic and yet equally angry and distancing Cobain throughout the 2 hour documentary which effectively elucidates Cobain’s ambivalence towards his own success.
Finally, here are some pictures from the Nevermind cover shoot. Want to buy one?