“I’m not like them
But I can pretend
The sun is gone
But I have a light
My day is done
But I’m having fun
I think I’m dumb
Maybe just happy”
As a teenager, I was a major Nirvana fan. The first album I bought was Nevermind and I remember feeling devestated when he died, by his own hand, at the age of 27.
Over the years I’ve avidly read interviews about him, read books about him and really bought in to his story, always frustrated that the true “him” remained hidden. He didn’t give frank or serious interviews, his Nirvana bandmates seemed to reel with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after losing him and Courtney Love? Well, she had her own well-documented issues to deal with.
So, after reading lots of gushing reviews online, my boyfriend and I took ourselves to the IFI to see Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck on Friday night.
As I say, I had read a lot of great reviews about it and I was/am such a fan of Nirvana’s music, I wanted to see what the hype was, if anything “new” was revealed of him. Basically, to see if I could get to know him better.
I won’t lie: I didn’t love it. Although some of the home movie footage was poignant (clips of a 2/3 year old Kurt playing and goo-gooing with his parents are a bit tear-jerking, the gig footage is raw and LOUD and *some* of the family moments with Courtney and Frances are touching), it felt kind of exploitative at times.
A reluctant interviewee who famously and passionately spoke against wanting to be a spokesman for a generation, its hard to imagine that Kurt would have embraced the idea of someone poking through the deepest, darkest corners of a storage unit of his private recordings, demos, journals, art etc to find snippets worthy of displaying to the world.
Also, there is a recurring theme in these interviews and journal extracts that “Kurt hated to be humiliated”, however we’re treated to scenes of him totally off his head on heroin and tales of him trying to seduce a girl described as “slow”.
Possibly this is an attempt to de-mystify him, to show him as human, not the grunge idol/hero who died for our sins…
Apart from the home movie footage there is nothing much new on offer here…although we’re given splices of his voice recordings, gig footage, photos and home movie footage and old MTV interviews, they really are just splices – its hard to capture his personality. We don’t get to “know” him beyond what we already did.
There is limited input from others in his life – a little from Krist Novoselic and Courtney Love (who looks amazing, by the way) and his immediate family.
Pat Smear, Dave Novoselic and Butch Vig are notable by their absence, as are Billy Corgan, Michael Stipe or any other friends you’d imagine knew him well and who could speak to his personality, humour and life apart from his well-documented torment.
I think the fact that his daughter helped to co-produce it has given it creedance and elevated it beyond eye-rolling “here’s another guy trying to make money out of Kurt’s life story” territory.
Not to be all doom and gloom: It’s definitely a nicely put together “montage”, and if it brings Nirvana’s music to a new, younger audience, what’s the harm?? I know that I’ve been “introducing” it to my neighbours all weekend! :-)
(By the way, I found it REALLY hard not to sing along with the live music scenes!! )