The Talkin' Pictures

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"His goal was to write as well as he could, to play as well as he could..."

“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” presents it’s audience with a rare opportunity to go into the life of a man who many regard as one of the best musicians of all time. With the cooperation of his family and friends, the documentary utilizes various performances of Nirvana, unheard songs, unreleased home movies, audio recordings, drawings, photographs, journal entries and scrapbooks all to assemble the story that was the life of Kurt Cobain.

What makes “Montage” stand out from similar documentaries is the way in which it is constructed. By being given this unprecedented archive into the man’s life, director Brett Morgen tries to craft something unique by giving the audience a glimpse they haven’t seen before, deep into the heart and mind of this fascinating individual. The way in which he weaves the archival pieces he’s amassed for the film is riveting, being perfectly accentuated by animation sequences that are used as pseudo reenactments of Kurt’s audio journals. It’s in these moments that the documentary truly reaches it’s highest notes.

That being said, the film does, like it’s subject, have some flaws. The filmmakers gloss over important events and details in service of creating a “tortured artist” narrative rather than a balanced biography. This is all well and good, and highly entertaining, however it leaves the audiences with somewhat of an empty feeling inside as it all draws to a close. By cutting down of the use of performance footage (as fun as that is to see) and instead fleshing out certain important milestones or moments in the man’s life the film would help paint a larger picture for the audience of what Kurt was actually like and how these life changing events impacted him as a person (going from finding punk music to recording Nevermind in a matter of fifteen minutes in an over two hour long doc is almost unforgivable). These omissions are part of the glue that connects the audience to Kurt and without it our understanding of him starts to wane.


Morgen and his crew have crafted one of the most entertaining documentaries you will likely see this year, one that lingers with you days after you have watched it, however maybe not the right reasons. While it is understandable that they would use the material to piece together a tale of san artists self-destruction, this approach for the film seems like somewhat of an easy escape for entertainment rather than information.

6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed by Chris Swan.