Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Review

“… did a good job of presenting a bunch of information to allow you to better understand Cobain, while at the same time not having an ulterior motive.”

Last night I watched Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck and I know that it is going to be next to impossible to put my feelings about it into words. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (hereon out ‘Montage of Heck’) is a movie that aims to give you a sense of Kurt Cobain’s life via many home videos, recordings, journal entries, works of art, interviews; really anything they could get their hands on.

I like Kurt Cobain as much as the next guy, but I am by no means his biggest fan. That being said I do think that Kurt Cobain is very interesting, so this “documentary” did appeal to me. This is going to be very frustrating for me because I don’t know how I can judge Montage of Heck. The movie wasn’t really even a movie, it was more akin to an experience. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it. The best thing I can say about Montage of Heck was that it was fascinating. Seeing all of this personal footage of Kurt Cobain’s life, specifically his journal entries, was eye opening. It’s not that I didn’t respect his work before hand, it’s just that I never took the time to research him if that makes sense. Montage of Heck did a good job of presenting a shitload of information in an appealing way. I can’t say that the film wasn’t biased, technically all home movies are biased because the person shooting them wants to only remember the happy times, but I will say that it did a good job of presenting multiple view points. When one clip would be shown, it would be followed by a different clip or something that offered an almost opposite view point. Montage of Heck didn’t try to change your opinion on Kurt Cobain. When he was being an asshole, you saw him being an asshole; the same goes for when he was being a family man. Montage of Heck did a good job of presenting a bunch of information to allow you to better understand Cobain, while at the same time not having an ulterior motive. The footage used in Montage of Heck was nothing short of amazing; the behind-the-scenes look at Cobain’s life was something crazy to see. If I had to give a complaint it would be that I wished the film would have maybe labeled the footage used, because sometimes it was hard to keep track of if I was seeing a home-movie or some stock footage used to emphasize a point. This is very important toward the start of the film where we get to see some short films that Cobain himself made (I assume), but it’s hard to tell if that was really the case or if those were just visuals used to illicit a feeling from the audience. Apart from that I felt that the editing stitched these clips together seamlessly, and also kept the movie from ever feeling like it was dragging it’s feet.

Going into less personal shit, Montage of Heck had a wonderful soundtrack (no shit). Cobain’s music not only matched the tone perfectly (again, no shit), but the covers used for the soundtrack were also great. Be it the lullaby versions of a few songs, or the choir version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, the music choices were brilliant and kept the film from feeling stale (not that it would have otherwise). Finally what I wanted to mention was the animation in Montage of Heck. Now there are two main types of animation used in the film, but the first I want to discuss is the story-driven type. Throughout the film, mainly early on, Montage of Heck opted for beautifully animated scenes where there would otherwise be no footage available. These scenes usually showed a young Cobain doing his thing, and they were amazing. The animation styles were beautiful, and the scenes depicted were amazing as well. This gave Montage of Heck a more personal feeling in a way, because we got to see these moments of Cobain where there would otherwise be no footage, but it wasn’t a reenactment or anything. This was an artist interpretation of the story that was being told, and honestly it was a great addition to the film. The second style of animation used in Montage of Heck is what I think sets the film apart from other ‘documentaries’, and that is what I like the call the doodle animation. Kurt Cobain was a very creative person, the way that he communicated his feelings was by getting them onto paper; be it painting, writing music, or many journal entires. Montage of Heck, to give us a more complete picture of Cobain, used these journal entries to give us a brief look at Cobain’s feelings. These portions of the film could have been dull, just images of text, but instead they were brought to life. Instead of these images and words being inanimate, they were made into these living objects. We could see the thought-process going into what was written because not everything is in the words, but how they were transcribed. We get to see these harshly-written notes be jotted down right in front of our eyes; we got to see these doodles come to life in the margins of these notebooks. These small details really brought Cobain closer to the audience. It conveyed a sense of feeling like no piece of paper with writing on it ever could, and because of that I was in awe.

It’s hard to review a movie like Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. The movie’s goal was not to anything other than to get you to understand who Kurt Cobain was, and I think it did a brilliant job of that. I didn’t love or hate the movie, but I was never bored. I found myself constantly fascinated at the story that was unfolding before my eyes, and to me that means the movie did it’s job. It took a story of a very complex individual and it boiled it down to a 120 minute runtime; and not only that but it made it unique, much like Cobain’s work itself. What I’m trying to say is everyone should check out this movie. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Cobain I think you’ll get something out of it.

I give Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck an A

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