Opening Night: ‘Kurt Cobain — About a Son’
Gorgeous cinematography and informal, personable interviews breathe new life into the oft-misconstrued rock deity, Kurt Cobain.
Forging new ground in the domain of late Nirvana frontman KurtCobain is a trying task; scores of works from the investigational film Kurt and Courtney to the artistic rendering of Gus Van Zant’s Last Days hit the circuit of conspiracy theorist and fans ages ago. And upon first glance, Kurt Cobain — About a Son, featuring interviews compiled for its contextual predecessor, Michael Azerrad’s book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana,rings with redundancy. But as many discovered at its premier at NewYork City’s Greenwich Village IFC theatre last night (Oct. 3), what About a Sonlacks in fresh, hard substance, is thoroughly made up in revealingminutiae, and director AJ Schnack’s refined creative vision and movingmedium.
The film, a weave of music (what Azerrad called a”Cobain mix tape,” plus soundtrack courtesy of Steve Fisk and BenGibbard), gorgeous photographs and cinematography, and roughly one andhalf hours of tape from Azerrad’s extensive interviews, paints adetailed picture of the rocker’s past, while candidly clarifyingnumerous damning and speculative reports. Here, Azerrad’s interview,recorded at Cobain’s kitchen table in Seattle during the nighttimehours and fundamentally a regurgitation of much of his book’s content,is shown in new light as the intonations of Cobain’s voice, wittyquips, and oddly, his apparent bubbly attitude surface. Though alsotelling of Cobain’s depression and paranoia, the film sees laughs andhumorous, hyper-nostalgic tales, delivering a previously undiscoveredcheery disposition to a man so often depicted in the media otherwise.
As a chronological documentation, About a Sonfirst offers despair imagery — Cobain’s demolished home, the town’sdesolate haunts, and lumberyard — of the dank logging outpost ofAberdeen, as recantations of his life and times enjoying childhood,later suffering from his parent’s divorce, and eventually findingsolace in the liberating punk scene narrate. Olympia follows, withsweeping shots of the capitol’s cultured bohemian lifestyle, whichCobain wryly explains he held a love hate relationship with, beforemoving onto Seattle, Nirvana’s explosion on the local and global musicscenes, and Cobain’s struggle with the ensuing attention, all describedin his boyishly charming croak and reactive critique.
Tocelebrate the film’s premier, both Schnack and Azerrad were on hand fora brief Q&A. Before the film, Schnack discussed a major motivationfor its creation; to strip away the public misconceptions anddemonizations of Cobain, which the director explained his then13-year-old nephew sadly illustrated when first diving head first intoNirvana years ago. Following the showing, one attendee questioned, “Ishe really that upbeat and funny in real life, or is that just editing?”Visually relieved and smiling at Schnack, Azerrad was happy to reply.”That’s the main point of the film… he really was.”