HBO Documentary Revisits Seattle Icon Kurt Cobain's Troubled Life

HBO Documentary Revisits Seattle Icon Kurt Cobain's Troubled Life kurt-cobain-montage-of-heck-hbo

Brett Morgan’s documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a captivating, immersive exploration of one of Seattle’s most famous music icons. The wealth of archival video, audio, drawings and notebook material offer an intimate portrait of a brilliant, yet troubled artist. Morgan was granted full access to Cobain’s archives and spent eight years painstakingly poring over materials. The process is evident in the storytelling, which unfolds not with a single narrator, but a spectacular collage of Cobain artifacts, virtually enabling the deceased to tell his own story. The interviews with family and friends offer glimpses into Kurt’s character, but rarely divulge new insight into his life’s story. More revealing are the interviews with Cobain. Sitting alongside his van on an early Nirvana tour he flatly announces, “We’re trying to become more successful so we can have a more comfortable life." After the trappings of celebrity have begun to wear on him he says, “I feel like I'm being evaluated 24 hours a day." Kurt's father Don is frustratingly mute in his brief interview. It feels like a missed opportunity for him to explain his troubled relationship with his son. As a person never comfortable with success and exposure, it’s hard to imagine Cobain feeling alright with the depth and intimate examination portrayed here. In one revealing animated sequence, a tape of Cobain’s voice is played, detailing the story of his first sexual encounter. After his classmates learn of the incident Kurt says, “I got out of class and the kids were there to make fun of me. I couldn’t handle the ridicule, so I went to the train tracks to kill myself.” Later, animated renderings of Cobain’s violent and disturbing notebook sketches illustrate his angst-ridden thought process. As an artist, Kurt was willing to bare his soul, but not accept the accompanying recognition and acclaim. The final third of the film focuses on Cobain’s relationship with Courtney Love and their child, Frances Bean. Scenes of the pair in their Los Angeles apartment show a silly, loving interaction between a young, druggy couple. Perhaps the film’s most revealing moment is when Love admits she considered sleeping with someone else while married and that, “My desire to cheat on Kurt made him suicidal.” The result was Cobain taking 67 Rohypnols mixed with champagne in a hotel room in Rome. At the time, the incident was reported as an accident, but Love now confirms Kurt was trying to kill himself and that “there was a definite suicidal urge.” The sheer magnitude of source material, research and stunning visual composition make a strong case for Montage of Heck as the definitive Kurt Cobain documentary. It would be hard to imagine where to go from here. Overall, the film serves as a thorough investigation into the life of a loving, but tortured man. Kurt hated being humiliated and wanted nothing more than an intrinsic role in a close family. That desire was held so intently that when cracks within his own family began to surface, he became shattered beyond repair. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck has received a limited theatrical release worldwide and will premiere on television on HBO starting on May 4, 2015.
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