Tuned In Preview: HBO’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
WARNING: Mild spoilers for Montage of Heck
HBO’s latest documentary givesÂ an in depth look at the life — and the psyche — of Nirvana’s late singer, Kurt Cobain. The Brett Morgen film showcasesÂ some amazing footage in the form of videos, artwork, photos and more; talks to members of Cobain’s family, friends as well as Courtney Love; and really tries to draw a complete picture of the troubled artistÂ who took his own life when he was 27.Â
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK explores the indelible record of a life lived on the fine edge between madness and genius, painting a searing and unforgettable portrait of the iconic musician as it mirrors his quicksilver mind. Using Cobainâ€™s own words and images, this intimate look at an elusive and conflicted artist marks the first documentary to be made with the cooperation of his family.
Morgen weaves together moving first-person testimony from Cobainâ€™s mother and sister; his widow, Courtney Love; former girlfriend Tracy Marander; ex-bandmate Krist Novoselic and others with Cobainâ€™s own words, providing an unflinching tribute to a contentious and contradictory talent, who is still revered by millions around the world 20 years after his tragic death.
Given unprecedented access to Cobainâ€™s personal and family archives by the late rockerâ€™s estate, Morgen uncovered a wealth of new material that documents the emotional rollercoaster of his personal life and celebrates his uncompromising creative spirit, including the inspiration for the filmâ€™s title, a circa-1988 â€œsound collageâ€ he titled â€œMontage of Heck.â€ Recorded by Cobain on a four-track cassette recorder, itâ€™s a free-form mash-up of song bites, manipulated radio recordings, elements of demos and disparate sounds created or recorded by Cobain.
Using Cobainâ€™s artwork, photography, journals and family photographs as inspiration, the filmmakers have produced original animation to illustrate important moments in his life. Also featured are dozens of Nirvana songs and performances, as well as previously unheard Cobain originals.
Watching this documentary made me realize how much I didn’t know about Cobain when he was alive. But that was never my mission. I simply loved Nirvana’s music. It made me feel…and that was good enough for me.Â But finding out how hisÂ life influenced his music is both beautiful and painful.Â Through interviews with the people who knew him along withÂ classic interviews with Cobain and Nirvana, artwork, music, photos, sound montages and most incredibly, a massive amount of video footage,Â Montage of HeckÂ really humanized himÂ for me. We learn about:
-Cobain’s turbulent family life, which was a main source of rejection. Those feelings of rejection, abandonment and humiliation would color the rest of his life and his music. Those scars never faded.
-Not only was he a musician he was an artist. We even see some of his artwork as a kid and as an adult.
-His relationship with Courtney Love. Courtney’s not only interviewed for the doc, we see these videos of the two at home. It’s incredible just how much we see of Cobain. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be able to witness this, these moments are so intimate and personal. But, at the same time, they’re so fascinating to watch.
-His struggle with drugs. Actually, we learn not just about his struggle, but Courtney’s too. The doc goes into how their battle with drugs affected the birth of their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, who is actually one of the executive producers of Montage of Heck.
-Some of the little things I loved:
- Cobain’sÂ relatingÂ to a 1979 movie called, Over the Edge.
- Seeing footage of Nirvana’s famousÂ MTV Unplugged appearance
- Listening toÂ a haunting version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- Seeing footage of Nirvana which included a young Dave Grohl
- Video of KurtÂ saying things like “Party On, Wayne.”
After finishing the film, it’s incredible to think that Cobain only lived to be 27.Â He experienced so much in that 27 years. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck premieres tonight at 9/8c on HBO.
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