Brett Morgen's documentary about Nirvana rock star Kurt Cobain, who died aged 27 in 1994, is both extraordinarily intimate and strangely evasive. Morgen is able to draw on Cobain's handwritten letters, journals, songbooks and drawings as well as on home-movie footage of Cobain, his wife, Courtney Love, and their baby, Frances Bean.
There are some jarring notes here, not least in the interviews with Cobain's mother, father and stepmother, about whom he clearly had very ambivalent feelings. Morgen does an excellent job of showing how Cobain progressed from a troubled school kid in Aberdeen, Washington, to becoming a global celebrity – something he hated. His writing makes clear how much he resented the media prying into his private life.
The film emphasises Cobain's creativity as well as the work ethic that went alongside his well-chronicled drug use. (In his notebook, he wrote that no band could achieve anything of note unless they rehearsed at least five times a week.) Courtney Love, often vilified, comes across in a relatively sympathetic light, both in the older footage and in an interview for the film. What the film sidesteps is any of the controversy that surrounded Cobain's death, and the bickering over his legacy and estate.
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