Kurt Cobain - About A Son

Kurt Cobain - About A Son


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Since the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, there’s been a ton of regurgitated footage and sycophantic documentaries praising the musical genius of a tortured soul who died way too young. Most of these were put together by friends, fans and journalists, without much in the way of coherent first-hand evidence from the man himself.  AJ Schrack’s documentary Kurt Cobain About a Son gives an account straight from the horse’s mouth.

During the research of his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, journalist Michael Azerrad collected more than 24 hours worth of taped interviews with Cobain. Shrack has built his documentary by combining highlights from the interviews with some amazing photography to produce a highly articulate and subjective insight into Cobain’s life. With little accompanying music, and a complete absence of Nirvana hits pumping through the speakers, the film relies purely on Cobain’s narrative to drive it forward.

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Cobain starts with his early childhood, apparently a happy one, quickly punctured by the breakup of his parents at the age of seven. This seemed to spell the beginning of a life of confusion, alienation and isolation from his peers and surrounding environment.  A self-confessed depressive by the age of nine, Cobain was brought up in Aberdeen, a small Northwest Pacific town he soon grew to loathe.  Drifting around aimlessly, he tried to avoid confrontation with his class mates despite an obvious contempt for everything around him.  As a teenager, a talent for art was quickly pushed aside for music, and thanks to his aunt presenting him with a drum kit and guitar, his music became the perfect vehicle for venting his creative energy and pent up frustration.

Surprisingly little is said about the formation of Nirvana although he pays significant homage to his influences ranging from UK Punk bands to The Vaselines and Led Belly. His relationship with other band members, particularly Kris Novoselic, seems to have been one of mutual respect rather than friendship.  Cobain, always more shy and withdrawn probably felt hemmed in by the ebullient nature of Novoselic, but it seems there was no messing about as to who drove the band forward.  Cobain was always the skipper.

He mentions the influence of Courtney Love on his life, and how, for the first time ever, he found a soul mate of sorts when he moved to Seattle.  The obvious irony being that they both were cut from the same wildly self-destructive cloth. Cobain’s take on his heroin use is that it helped cure his chronic stomach pains. He doesn’t deny or refuse to discuss this, but is certainly a lot more sheepish on this issue. The word addict never comes into play, and the fact he had convinced himself that it was the cure to his stomach problems, may have been used as a method of self-denial.

Cobain’s story is perfectly juxtaposed with some spectacular photography.  Poignant sunsets over the North West Pacific and Seattle, and some breathtaking aerial shots all contribute significantly to the overall atmosphere.  This is more the story of an ordinary but talented individual’s struggle to find himself in an indifferent world, than the downfall of a rock legend.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2007
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A look at the life and music of Kurt Cobain, narrated by the man himself.
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Chris ***1/2

Director: AJ Schnack

Starring: Kurt Cobain

Year: 2006

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2007
Leeds 2007

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