SPOILER ALERT: I saw this at the Roxy Theater last night, if you haven’t seen Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, now’s the time to hit Command W…and fast.
Kurt Cobain would have hated every second. Every single second. It’s no secret that Kurt was less than cooperative with being interviewed, pulling stunts like putting his head on the table seemingly exhausted by the interviewers latest shallow question. But unveiling fragments of a person’s being, through home videos and snapshots of his journals in Montage of Heck, would cause the stomach to lurch, but that can be said about anyone.
The portrait painted in Montage of Heck is a sympathetic one; portraying Kurt as a highly sensitive, playful musician plagued by his fear of abandonment, ridicule and, of course, his coping methods, set to the Nirvana discography. The film also seems to slip into a sardonic satire of itself as the unfortunate fortune of Kurt’s life and subsequent untouchable legacy.
“Once he got three million, he would be a junkie,” Courtney Love recalled Kurt saying between drags of her cigarette at one point in the film.
Everyone laughed when they were supposed to at Kurt’s playful and sarcastic remarks (“They Don’t?!” in shock when Love told him girls don’t masturbate to the teen superstars on TV). All of the home videos, both from his childhood and marriage to Courtney Love, successfully allows the viewers to pull back the curtain they’ve been anxiously hovering around still a little over 20 years later. This goes specifically for the crowd that packed the PFS curated event at Roxy Theater last night.
The scenes of his marriage reveal the true infatuation he had for Love and Love in return for him. They feed into each others childish renderings of life, shining a jovial and blissful light on the pair. They were truly in love, sharing the same ball and chain to addiction in equal measures. Additionally so in their love for their daughter, Frances Cobain.
A heart breaking scene arrives during Frances’ first haircut. Kurt struggles to stay awake while he holds his daughter and Love cuts, but fails, and nods off a new times. His weight loss is clearly visible, and the boils on his face and arms are hard to look at. Montage of Heck, more visually than stated, captured the grips of Kurt’s addiction to heroin in an intimate and rare way. It was the only clip where he didn’t seem oddly aware that these videos would end up somewhere eventually by frequently retreating to humor and imitations to save face.
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To fill in moments that they didn’t have footage for, cartoons, often cheesy at times, reimagined Kurt’s teenage years, for example, and it’s dark, tortured stories. Being passed around by family, unrequited sexual desires and ridicule from his peers looked like it was ripped from a comic book (fittingly with Kurt’s art in mind). On the other hand however, the animation of certain drawings in his journals were personified and undoubtedly haunting, acting as conduits for the continuous drive to understand Kurt more.
The ending of the movie was very anticlimactic, as you probably could have guessed. The film ends abruptly with plain text, stating that a month after his London overdose, which was brought on, according to Love, by Kurt “sensing” that Love was going to cheat on him, he took his own life. After a short pause the dramatic blow comes, “He was 27.”
As much as you do feel closer to Kurt, you don’t. It’s a kind of emptiness that makes you feel hopelessly oblivious and you don’t know why. Montage of Heck leaves you with more questions than you started with, enabling several imaginable answers to each one of them. It forces you to come to your own conclusions, which is the real take-home of this worth-seeing film.