Courtney loves censorship

CRIES AND WHISPERS
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Indy Lifestyle Online
ONE OF the films which was not shown at this year's Sundance festival has amassed more press than all of those which were. Directed by Britain's Nick Broomfield, the film is Kurt and Courtney, a documentary about Courtney Love and the suicide of her husband, Kurt Cobain. It was withdrawn from the festival's programme following pressure from the BBC, and, the rumour goes, from Love herself. Robert Redford, the festival director, commented to the press: "I do think it is highly ironic that an artist who has benefited so much from freedom of speech in her career has chosen to prevent another artist from showing his work."

This sounds reasonable enough, but I wonder if Redford would be invoking freedom of speech so smugly if Broomfield's documentary were about him, and if his wife had shot herself in the head, leaving him to bring up a baby daughter. Would he be so pious if he had spent the months after the suicide having his house besieged by a teenage vigil and receiving letters scrawled in blood from obsessive fans? If he had, I doubt he'd think that a raised eyebrow and an ironic comment were setting the appropriate tone.

And when did he get the impression that Love was a staunch defender of other artists' rights, anyway? Was it when she smacked one of Cobain's biographers across the head in a Los Angeles nightclub? When she raged at the Vanity Fair journalist who reported that she injected heroin while pregnant? When she squared up to the singer of The Wedding Present, because he had the audacity to work with someone she'd fallen out with? Or when she demanded that anyone wearing a Pearl Jam T-shirt to one of her concerts had to leave? Given these displays of nurturing, creative solidarity, it's strange that Redford took Love's disapproval of Kurt and Courtney as a amusingly ironic inconsistency.

As for his assertion that Love, more than any other human being, has benefited from the principle of free speech, I can't make any sense of it at all, unless he means that her career has been helped by all the controversial things written about her, and that it's other people's freedom of speech that has been to her benefit. If so, he could have added that this has worked for Nick Broomfield too: his film has had much more publicity than it would have done had it been screened without any fuss. If there's any irony in this case, then that's it.

In co-opting the language of freedoms and rights, Redford is blithely denying that a film-maker has any responsibility for the feelings of another person (and her young child), a person who is, whatever her irrationalities, neither a corrupt politician nor a crooked company director. I'll bet he was the first person to speak up in defence of the paparazzi at the time of Princess Diana's death.

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