Movie Review: Kurt Cobain – Montage to Heck
Kurt Cobain Still Lives!
It was the early nineties. Before the South Central Los Angeles, Rodney King riots. Before Pulp Fiction and even Reservoir Dogs. Before the first World Trade Center bombing. It was a transitionary period in time, 1991 in particular. The Internet was an idealistic thing that very few had connection to. The United States was bombing Iraq out of Kuwait. Jennifer Lopez was a Fly Girl on In Living Color.
Time was on a cliff, about to fast forward into a cultural and technological revolution. The tidal wave of the Internet was only a few years away. Cell phones were coming to your pocket instead of your car. Mass media was salivating like a pack of hounds at the gate.
It was the time that three young adults from Washington pronouced the revolution with a shot gun blast to popular culture. Nirvana was born. The last honest pre modern viral sensation.
Montage to Heck is an homage to Kurt Cobain by his daughter Frances Bean Cobain. The documentary serves up a background and insight into Kurt that few people ever knew. What the documentary lacks in pop culture ties to the crest of a changing America, it makes up for with in depth access to the mind of the greatest trumpeter that pronounced the changing times.
What gets lost in all the magazine covers and lurid theories behind the life and death of Kurt Cobain is the true virility of the band Nirvana, and the shockwave cultural impact of the band. I was 18 years old when I began my college career in 1991 in Tacoma, Washington. Almost instantly the dorm rooms were buzzing with the sound of Nirvana on the Seattle alternative radio station. So much great music was coming out of the Seattle at this time, from Soundgarden to Pearl Jam. But one band stood out among the rest. It was Nirvana. I was meeting people for the first time in my new dorm room. One thing we all could agree on was this new music that was vibrational between my new friends, my college campus, and the entire Puget Sound area. One of my friends was hip to the scene and even had Nirvana’s first album Bleech! On September 16, 1991 we loaded up the hooptie, and made the road trip to Beehive records in Seattle for the Nevermind CD release party. The record store wasn’t packed, it was flooded. The sea of young adults poured out from the store into the parking lot and the streets. We had no idea of the fame and cultural success Nirvana would achieve, but we were there to celebrate the sound and energy created by our regional neighbors. On my Thanksgiving break I returned home to old high school friends. I shared with one friend the Nirvana album, “You have to hear this!” He had never heard of Nirvana, and yet he only lived 3 hours away. When I returned home again for Christmas break, I met up with my friend again. He excitedly took me aside and proclaimed, “You have to hear this new band Nirvana!” This is the best demonstration of the sharp rise to fame Nirvana went through.
Before cell phones and the Internet, Nirvana went from a regional Seattle success in September all the way to a national phenomenon by December. Imagine being a poor musician living week to week from gig to gig, thrust to international stardom in only a few short months.
Montage to Heck falls short in demonstrating the cultural phenomenon that Nirvana unleashed on American society. It misses the correlation to energy and angst exploding in society at that time. However, that wasn’t the goal. Montage to Heck does a great job of introducing you to the characters that shaped Kurt Cobain’s youth and the tribulations that swirled around him in his developmental years. The best part of the documentary is the access you get to Kurt Cobain’s background story. The documentary fades into a slurred blend of home videos and interviews until it comes to it’s sharp end. Montage to Heck is sprinkled with wonderful treats and emotional insights, but it falls short of a demonstrating truth in perspective and broad reach.
Nirvana was made up of three musicians during the rise to stardom 1990-1994: Kurt Kobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl. Krist Novoselic provided an interview for the documentary. Dave Grohl did not provide an interview, and was only seen in photos and videos.