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Tribeca: 6 Ways Kurt Cobain Comes to Life in Brett Morgen’s ‘Montage of Heck’

Tribeca: 6 Ways Kurt Cobain Comes to Life in Brett Morgen's 'Montage of Heck'

Brett Morgen’s latest documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to much acclaim and will open in limited release on April 24 before premiering on HBO at the beginning of next month. The film constructs an intimate portrait of the troubled grunge icon in his own words. It also features a delicate combination of Cobain’s artwork and personal recordings, which were kept away in a storage locker maintained (from a distance) by his widow Courtney Love.

Love, who provided Morgen with unfettered access to the storage facility for his proposed documentary, joined the filmmaker onstage during the question-and-answer session that followed a screening of the film during the Tribeca Film Festival.

Here are some of the revelations about the late musician that came out of the screening and Q&A.

Nobody chronicled Kurt Cobain’s life better than…Kurt Cobain.

“Kurt
worked so intensely with audio and the sound design in this film is
his,” Morgen said. Going into the project, Morgen had no idea that 200
cassettes full of personal recordings would turn up in Cobain’s storage
locker, let alone serve as the basis for the majority of the aural
narrative of the film. “We cut it up and edited it, but that’s Kurt
sound design.”

Kurt’s daughter appreciates the movie.

Upon meeting Frances Bean Cobain for the first time, Morgen said, “I sensed, as a father, that she had a very complicated relationship with Kurt…I wasn’t entirely sure how much she knew and how much she didn’t know, but in a way, I felt that there was an opportunity to bridge the gap — and that is a lot harder than entertaining people, which is what I usually do. And I think that when I showed her the film when it was finished, she said, thank you for giving me a couple hours with my father that I never had. I mean, what greater reward as a filmmaker can you possibly get — that sort of response.”


Kurt himself is an unreliable narrator.
One audio clip from an interview features a detailed description of Cobain’s first-ever
sexual encounter — with a young woman who was mentally handicapped. “I don’t know if the story is true or not but I felt that the experience was true,” said Morgen.

Like it or not, Cobain has symbolic value.
“It felt in many ways like the first sort of — I hate to say this word — Gen X documentary because most people are still working out their script,” Morgen said. “It felt like a film about Kurt, but [also] about our whole generation. There is this thing that I remember feeling where if Kurt’s parents were five years older they probably would have never gotten divorced and if they were five years younger they would have never gotten married. So it’s this very specific [moment].”
Courtney Love is great at describing her romance with Cobain.
“Punch drunk love.” Those exact words are how Love described the intimacy of her relationship with Cobain for the audience. “You’ve met your soulmate and you’re 25 and you’re just fucking and talking and fighting and fucking,” she said. “So there are other kinds of love and more mature kinds of love, but it was a soulmate-y thing.”
There’s a reason why former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl isn’t in the movie.
“It’s not a talking head movie, it’s not a film about Nirvana and my inspiration for the interviews is the movie ‘Lenny,’ the Bob Fosse film,” Morgen told the audience. “If you remember that film, it’s very primal; there is only the mother, the manager and the girlfriend. I wanted to keep it as intimate as possible.”

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