There are many eerie moments in the new Kurt Cobain documentary, “Montage of Heck,” but perhaps none as spooky as hearing the late Nirvana frontman slurringly beckon you to watch: “Hey, hey, come heeeere, I want you to see somethiiiing ….”
“Montage of Heck” debuts Monday, May 4, on HBO, but audiences in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York got to see it in movie theaters last week. MyMusicCloud sent me to watch the movie, which boils over with adolescent rage and blazing rock intensity, in full digital sound. Stupid and contagious? Yes, it is. But it’s also, dark, wistful and often uncomfortably revealing.
For Nirvana fans, there are plenty of music clips, stage antics, and even some rough, unheard acoustic songs to ponder. For celeb voyeurs, there are candid, never-before-seen family confessions and happy home movies of Kurt and Courtney Love.
“I got the keys to this archive and I didn’t know what I was going to find,” confessed director Brett Morgen, who answered questions after a packed-house “Montage of Heck” showing in Los Angeles. “It was like meeting an old friend for the first time.”
Morgen collaborated with Kurt’s daughter, Frances Bean, and the Cobain family on this 8-year odyssey to piece together a portrait of Kurt’s fractured and much misunderstood personal life.
What he’s compiled is a broken, looking-glass collection of notebook diaries, cartoons, and startling spoken-word diaries from Kurt himself about his self-isolation and simmering anger.
With bitterness that still sounds fresh, the singer calls his teenage self an “immature, underdeveloped little dude,” and recounts being bullied to near-suicide by high school classmates after a thwarted attempt at sex with a neighborhood girl.
You see home movies of Kurt as an angelic toddler in “Montage of Heck,” and then fantastically grim photo animation depicting his tortured high school years and early recording sessions at the home of onetime girlfriend Tracy. As Tracy recalls his chronic ulcers and stomach pains, artists animate Kurt’s sometimes violent notebook paper doodles and editors splice in close-ups of writhing human intestines. (A revelation: Kurt loved to draw and film movies as well as write music.)
Bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic are seen hauling their own equipment in freezing temperatures and joking with MTV while Kurt scowls. Then, miraculously, Kurt’s laughing, joking, and completely uninhibited in home movies with Courtney, who loves to flash the camera, by the way. He practically beams with baby Frances Bean, looking as joyful and awestruck as any new Dad with his firstborn child. This is the Kurt we never really got to see.
Fascinatingly voyeuristic, “Montage of Heck” is a lurid peek into the Freudian muck of a tortured artist’s mind. It’s kind of like stumbling into a twisted, macabre funhouse. And, at 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll feel like you got to know and spend time with “an old friend.”
Watch it on HBO and look for the photo book on May 5th and the soundtrack with two new songs, including a 12-minute acoustic track, coming soon.