Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

2015

Documentary / Biography

58
IMDb Rating 8.0

Synopsis


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1.95G
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TV-MA
English
23.976 /
145 min
P/S 520 / 9521
1.92G
TV-MA
English
/
145 min
P/S 40 / 71

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by crocolm 7

It's 21 years since Kurt Cobain's death by suicide and his status as a legendary alternative rock figure and totem for a disaffected generation has not dimmed in the intervening period. Although I had been eagerly awaiting this documentary, at the same time I approached it with a wariness more than half expecting it to be a depressing encounter. Given what I already knew about the mental difficulties and addiction problems Kurt faced during his short life and the eventual sad outcome it was hard to believe that anything of a positive nature could be wrung from seeing this. This is the first official documentary made about the life of Kurt Cobain. It has been made with the co-operation of his family. His daughter Frances Bean is an executive producer. His parents, sister, wife- Courtney Love, first girlfriend and fellow band member Chris Novoselic (the third band member Dave Grohl is the notable absentee) have all contributed, allowing themselves to be interviewed. The expectation of access to intimate home videos as well as Kurt's own drawings, writing, outpourings etc and other previously unseen footage bringing with it the possibility of gaining a clearer view on Kurt Cobain's life is probably the thing which will entice most viewers to go see this. This heavy reliance on this intimate source material makes for an intense portrayal of the subject. It's also what makes it a success. It's noticeable how often for instance on screen we are shown up-close, his own words in his hand-writing in the original copybook complete with stains and other words and sentences crossed out. It's the closest place the director can bring us, next to occupying Kurt's mind. Much of the writing is angry and nihilistic but there are lots of lists too- of things to do for example; it all suggests a wildly active mind and one not easy to keep a rein on. Home videos himself and Courtney produced, both while pregnant with, and then after Frances Bean was born similarly get us up-close and personal. It's excruciating to watch but compelling too- a couple wrapped up in each other but also in their drug dependency. When Frances Bean is born his love for her is touching but then the videos also reveal the declining health as the heroin addiction spirals. As intense and personal as it is there are no major revelatory insights into the life or death of Kurt Cobain in this documentary. This is not a failing of the documentary as I don't think any revelatory new angles or expositions could have been expected. As well as this the title (taken from the name of a mix-tape Kurt put together) does indicate obfuscation or a lack of clarity or certainty about a picture drawn. So it should be; where a life ends so tragically definitive answers can never be presented and any distillation of his life or death into neat summations is thankfully and rightly avoided. The documentary tells us the following (which in essence we already know or suppose we know). Kurt was an energetic, intelligent child who became withdrawn and angry as he got older, probably owing largely to his parent's divorce. He was often a lone, self-hating teenager who found a release from his angst in smoking pot and then at a certain age he discovered punk music which lit a torch and he began to teach himself guitar and write music. He was disaffected enough and genius enough to write brilliantly disaffected genius songs. His music struck a chord, Nirvana became huge almost overnight and then he struggled with the idea of being held up as a spokesperson for a generation. Desperately insecure, above all else he craved love and a need for rootedness- a family to belong to. He found this with Courtney Love and later their daughter. He sought refuge in them away from what he saw as a hostile world but tragically he also sought refuge in heroin.

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Reviewed by tonepv 5

I am saddened at how so many critics, journalists and fans are irresponsibly throwing around the phase "the definitive documentary" in regards to Kurt Cobain. This film is absolutely not definitive. It offers a very narrow slice of Kurt's life and has little to no focus on his craft, which is the one thing Kurt wanted people to examine more than anything. The title "Montage of Heck", taken from one of Kurt's old mixtapes, is surely a fitting name. The film makes use of several clips from Kurt's home videos, drawings, notebooks, poetry, love letters and more. The editing in these montages is gorgeous and alluring, and there are some animation segments that are absolutely beautiful. Nonetheless, these sections of the film often dragged on too long and felt like they were unnecessarily repetitive, distracting from the narrative instead of serving it and over-selling us on parts of Kurt's mind and inner turmoil which were already very clear. Speaking of narrative, the one story this film tells is a story we already know and understand too well. The film has a single theme only, which is to use personal media graciously offered from the Cobain family to tell the story of a talented, hyper-sensitive tortured soul and drug addict who killed himself, and the cloud of chaos that lead up to that point. There is little to no insight on his art, only the struggles that propelled him to make his art, which are much less interesting because as an audience we are well aware of what negative habits can do to the psyche or physical health, but the real intrigue is what a person creates or does despite those issues. Perhaps that's my opinion, though. The irony here is saddening. This film, somehow managed to spend over 2 hours on highlighting the product of a failed marriage and broken upbringing, drug abuse, Courtney, ridicule and the pressures of press, all of which are the exact same things that ultimately lead to the recluse Kurt became and fed into his tragic suicide. This film somehow managed to become the enemy and mirrored everything Kurt tried to run away from. All that being said, I guess in the spirit of Rock and Roll, there is no real justice. Kurt won't get the movie he deserves, even after his death we seem to continue to focus on the obvious redundant cliches of the dark sides of his life. Although those things are real and an important part of his story, they are indeed only one part. That isn't definitive at all. As Kurt always said, "Just listen to the music, everything I have to say is there". He wasn't lying.

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Reviewed by tbjorgensen90 4

My problem with this movie is that I simply had the wrong expectations. I thought it would be the most comprehensive portrait of Cobain ever made. But no. It's named after Cobain's 1988 mix tape of the same name, and that's exactly what this movie is - a montage. You get to see some very interesting interviews with Cobain's parents, his sister, ex-girlfriend Tracy and Krist Novoselic. These interviews are great, but they're all very short and make up a small part of the entire movie. Which is a shame. Apart from the interviews you get to see a lot home video footage, both from Cobain's childhood and from his last years. Some of it is interesting, other parts (like all the shots of Courtney Love's tits) are just ridiculous. I wanted to get a glimpse of Kurt Cobain's life and personality, not Love's tits. Then you get to see animation, a visualization of Cobain talking to himself on the Montage of Heck tape (I think). They also made animations of drawings that Cobain did in his journals. To accompany these, they included shortened versions of different Nirvana songs. They also scanned text from his journal. Which does not work in a movie. I could barely manage reading the first sentence before it cut to another page. There's also concert footage - from Reading, Live and Loud, Unplugged and other shows that every Nirvana fan has seen before - no doubt, nothing new there. Also, before the movie starts, text on screen is telling viewers to stay in their seats through the credits for en exclusive interview with Brett Morgen. First, I'm thinking - why make us wait through the credits? Why not before? Secondly, the interview is around 15 minutes of Morgen talking about HOW INCREDIBLY GOOD the movie is. Also - why isn't Dave Grohl there? To sum it all up - yeah I had the wrong expectations - but still, the interviews are great, the rest isn't. A. J. Schnack's About a Son is much better in my opinion.

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