Film Review: Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck

Universal/HBO Films

As a crowd gathers outside the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin, Texas during the annual South by Southwest festival to watch a movie that goes deep into the mental roadmap of Northwest Washington’s most famous celebrity, It is quick to look at the surroundings outside and notice that the cool temperature and the gray clouds delivering the rain reflects that of the Pacific Northwest, adding to an eerie vibe to what everybody is about to view on the big screen.

It’s no secret that he was probably the last major rockstar that this planet has seen, and in over two decades after his death, there really hasn’t been anybody who has made a mark so deeply as Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain had. As many conspiracy theories about his death have surfaced, nothing has told us the story about how he got there and what shaped the music that would change the lives of so many people and change a musical scene altogether. So let us now take a trip back to both Aberdeen and Seattle, back to the 80s where the American college rock was king of the underground music scene.

Cobain was an outcast, placed right smack dab in the middle of a grizzly pulpit of slimy bullying. A target of antagonism and rumors, we see the roots of his dark lyricism and the aggression of his music provoked by years of tyranny from his peers. Music became a catharsis for him, giving him a voice, and that voice was heard; being one of the few brooding minds to reach the hearts of music fans abroad. The reluctant frontman was someone we could all relate to, and many people took him the heart. Long gone would be the whole glossy era of 80s rock and in came the era of cantankerous, moody melodies such as the song that pretty much still to this day defines the 90s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit;” in fact, some folks say that the song is where the 90’s began, ushering in whole new mass of kids would become the new blood of “Generation X.” This generation was thinking deeply into the political hardships of a nation that had recently had their first showdown with Iraq with an awareness that we’re in the midst of an economic recession – reality punched people right in the face. After the Reagan era was extended another four years with Bush, a nation realized that life wasn’t good. And as much as hair metal had taken us away from all that anguish, everyone needed something more honest something more down to earth – the Wall Street boom had ended, jobs were lost, and many of those who dreamed of heading out west to the Sunset Strip finally gave up and realized all of that partying and the “live it up lifestyle” that many of a metalhead drenched in hairspray lived, was nothing but a pipe dream. Here was a guy that we could all look up to now, looking back he might’ve been a bad example, but in his short career, only Elvis, The Beatles, The British Invasion, and the Punk rock movement of the 70s had flown higher flags. Cobain changed things at such break neck speed, leaving us with a monsterous legacy. He was a member of the 27 club, the same age where Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Brian Jones made their exits from this planet. Cobain’s disdain and his loathing of fame brought him to a murky place filled with horror and while  he was loved by many people, he could never see the light at the end of the tunnel as he went through phases of heroin addiction that only enhanced his health problems regarding his G.I. tract

For the film itself, director Brett Morgen literally brought back the ghost of Kurt Cobain; his parents and other relatives, plus many friends including an ex-girlfriend as well as ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and widow Courtney love make their emotional appearances. There are many people who are conspicuously absent, but it’s understandable having seen every body talking about him getting emotional and wishing nothing more that he was still here with us. Cobain’s hyperactivity and his troubled childhood are discussed in detail, and in many ways it was that that made him the artist an icon that he was. Parents divorcing and moving around to different homes; who wouldn’t be affected by such things?

Having somewhat of an Avant-garde edge, the Montage of Heck is still very comprehensible as other big interesting moments include live comic book/cartoon animation synched to many of his phone calls and conversations that were taped, bringing to life in real-time many pivotal moments that he rarely shared with every body – they say that a picture paints 1000 words, but this animation speaks thousands more. And his creativity beyond music which included many doodles and drawings are also animated amongst written lyrics and ideas that morphed into the music we know.
The songs that are played throughout the film expose a whole new meaning, particularly “Something In The Way” which spoke to a lot of kids who had no direction and could not find a means to get out. Even his version of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” from their unplugged performance haunts you even more.
The raw footage, these home videos are more than convincing that this was someone who was in trouble, many questions are answered but many questions remain.

We see the infant daughter who would never get to know her father and now, it would only be through music and videos that she would get a visit from him. But the most troubling is the content of the home videos that are shown, exposing further decent within his moments of trying to balance fatherhood/family with his rock star status that would lead to the climatic end to his life. This is footage of material you can’t make up or write a script for, shocking, but intriguing in a sad way; nobody is fooled here, it’s real and fucked up.
Not dwelling on the things we had heard over and over again like a broken record, It’s the human element of one of a long gone, enigmatic figure that beholds the focus that director Morgen resurrects Cobain as the person, but unfortunately his demons make their appearances as well.

Copyright & Publishing: 2015 Tommy hash for


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