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Review of Montage of Heck
edrx-1514419 October 2015
When Montage of Heck, a Sundance Film Festival award winning movie directed by Brett Morgan, was released, Rolling Stone Magazine called it "the most intimate rock doc ever made". This could not be more true. Frances Bean Cobain was credited as a producer for the project which was terrific news for Morgan. Courtney Love is, quite frankly, a nut case, all of the rights to Kurt Cobain's music, recordings, notebooks, and home movies are in Frances' name. These rights are exercised to their fullest extent in this movie.

Many other documentaries focus on one story, told in different parts by people related to the subject. There is very little music or excitement in them. A documentary about Kurt Cobain had better be playing Nirvana nonstop. Not only that, but the film features popular music from his childhood and live performances, and even includes arrangements of songs like Smells Like Teen Spirit. Certain guitar parts or vocals are isolated and played to create certain moods over a scene. The entire soundtrack is quite genius actually.

The interviews are told by people that are generally well known to Nirvana fans and the public. Krist Novecelic (Nirvana's bassist) and Courtney Love (Cobain's wife) are amongst several people who contribute to the story, along with Kurt's parents and the muse of Nevermind, Kurt's ex-girlfriend Tracy. Each person has another heartbreaking piece of the Cobain legacy. As stated before though, this isn't the only way the story is told.

The home movies and recordings are pieced together in this amazing time line that lay most of Kurt's life out on the screen. Kurt Cobain was a mystery to the world. He told such extravagant stories and lied because, as the voice of Kurt explains, he was bullied as a child and wanted to make himself "cool". First of all, hearing him talk about being bullied possesses such a humanizing effect, Kurt seems like another run of the mill faceless kid, which is exactly what he was before Nirvana. And also, it is such a refreshing way to hear a story. Rather than be told one opinion of the man by people who knew him, the viewer can watch, god like, over the story and form their own opinion.

For the parts of his life that were not recorded, Kurt's digital journal was used as the narration for an animated version of 1980's Aberdeen, 1990's Seattle, and everywhere he was in-between. The story is interesting to be heard with an artists rendition to help the viewer visualize the story better.

Listening to Kurt's voice on these stories is amazing, while being a little demented. It's a great strategy to get the audience closer, but while some of the audio clips were from interviews, some sounded as if they were recorded journal entries. Almost as if everyone watching the film was reading his diary.

Kurt was quoted saying that he never wanted all the fame. People constantly trying to figure him out and get in his head made him uncomfortable all the time. Had Cobain himself seen the film, he probably would've hated it. Every aspect of this poor man's life was too chaotic for a perfectly strong person to handle. Kurt was a sad boy at heart who had a broken brain and a rotting stomach. Every single morning, he would wake up to a swarm of thoughts constantly stinging him like yellow jackets. Which makes Montage of Heck a perfect title for a story about the tragedy of Cobain. Rather than focus on the band and his contribution to rock and roll, Montage brings the viewer into the enigmatic mind of Nirvana's front man. From the beginning where he was a giddy, creative, and loving little kid, to the end where the weight of being the worlds biggest rock star makes him want to taste the shell of a shotgun blast. The legend of Kurt Cobain is a difficult thing to capture, but Montage of Heck does an exceptional job of telling it.
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The best Cobain focused documentary I've seen.
ecmelton-186-10504917 July 2015
Some will complain that the documentary doesn't focus enough on Nirvana, and there's a very good reason for that. It's not a documentary about Nirvana; the film is intended to provide a more intimate look at Kurt Cobain as a person and provide insight into his more private and guarded moments. In that respect it is pretty successful. Nirvana's history is very well publicised, and the film assumes it's viewers are already fans that know a lot about the band (Why else would you watch a movie about the band's frontman?)

The films biggest selling point is that for the first time a director had the full cooperation of Cobain's family and access to the archive of materials he left behind, much of it had never been seen by the public eye before. These include home movies dating back to him as baby, behind the scene footage, and audio recordings. There is also going to be a companion book dedicated to never before seen photos and other materials that were unearthed. Unfortunately, it's not as exciting as it sounds. There may have been information I had never heard before, but none of it was surprising or profound. It all falls in line with what you would expect if you knew anything about Kurt going in. (I'm sure some people will disagree and say they found it shocking, but I didn't.) That being said the archival materials were well utilized and had a good presentation that fit into the story that was being told. It was nice to see them even if it was an over- hyped aspect of the movie.

From a technical standpoint the film really is a marvel. The animated transitions were a great way to incorporate the drawings and doodles that littered Kurt's notebooks. There are also scenes featuring puppetry and stop motion that are also inspired by his art and/or song lyrics. These are all really cool and actually provide more insight to his artistic style and writing process than you would think.

Additionally, several segments are entirely animated, and they look beautiful. Doing this is much more captivating than just just showing people talk about events or have a voice-over with a slideshow of pictures. It was a very good choice, and adds a lot to the viewing experience.

The film's soundtrack features live Nirvana recordings, covers and remixes, as well as music by other artist that fit the scenes, such as the Buddy Holly song that plays over his parents home movies from the '60s. This is well executed and I particularly love the violin rendition of "Smell Like Teen Spirit" that was used to mimic an orchestral score in the longest animated sequence.

Overall the film is an energetic and seemingly honest look at Kurt Cobain and the man he was. It was well made, entertaining, and a worthwhile documentary that stands head and shoulders above any other documentaries about him.
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I'm disappointed in this movie and the hype surrounding it.
tonepv30 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I am saddened at how so many critics, journalists and fans are irresponsibly throwing around the phase "the definitive documentary" in regards to Kurt Cobain. This film is absolutely not definitive. It offers a very narrow slice of Kurt's life and has little to no focus on his craft, which is the one thing Kurt wanted people to examine more than anything.

The title "Montage of Heck", taken from one of Kurt's old mixtapes, is surely a fitting name. The film makes use of several clips from Kurt's home videos, drawings, notebooks, poetry, love letters and more. The editing in these montages is gorgeous and alluring, and there are some animation segments that are absolutely beautiful. Nonetheless, these sections of the film often dragged on too long and felt like they were unnecessarily repetitive, distracting from the narrative instead of serving it and over-selling us on parts of Kurt's mind and inner turmoil which were already very clear.

Speaking of narrative, the one story this film tells is a story we already know and understand too well. The film has a single theme only, which is to use personal media graciously offered from the Cobain family to tell the story of a talented, hyper-sensitive tortured soul and drug addict who killed himself, and the cloud of chaos that lead up to that point. There is little to no insight on his art, only the struggles that propelled him to make his art, which are much less interesting because as an audience we are well aware of what negative habits can do to the psyche or physical health, but the real intrigue is what a person creates or does despite those issues. Perhaps that's my opinion, though.

The irony here is saddening. This film, somehow managed to spend over 2 hours on highlighting the product of a failed marriage and broken upbringing, drug abuse, Courtney, ridicule and the pressures of press, all of which are the exact same things that ultimately lead to the recluse Kurt became and fed into his tragic suicide. This film somehow managed to become the enemy and mirrored everything Kurt tried to run away from.

All that being said, I guess in the spirit of Rock and Roll, there is no real justice. Kurt won't get the movie he deserves, even after his death we seem to continue to focus on the obvious redundant clichés of the dark sides of his life. Although those things are real and an important part of his story, they are indeed only one part. That isn't definitive at all. As Kurt always said, "Just listen to the music, everything I have to say is there". He wasn't lying.
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A refreshing documentary that presents Kurt Cobain as a human not a victim.
riaghan21 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
By far this is the most comprehensive look into Kurt as a human being, without the sole focus being on his drug addiction and his depressive moods.

For the last 21 years the majority of what has been published has focused on Kurt's last few years and his impending demise but it was refreshing to see a documentary that tried to look at the big picture which included home footage of Kurt with his family as a young kid and as an adult, just being himself.

The inclusion of so much of Kurt's art and personal journals added so much depth and insight into his feelings at different times over his life, even though editing can skew what we see and what we don't.

It is fantastic that Frances Bean Cobain had an integral role in producing a more accurate representation of who her father really was rather than who the media/tabloids wanted him to be.
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If you love Kurt & Nirvana like I do.... Please pass on this crap.
jruotolo245 May 2015
Money is a necessary evil, this I understand. However, when it involves one of the most iconic and loved artists of the 90's, a line should be drawn. This was 2 hours of drawings and video footage that were not donated to this documentary, they were sold by Courtney and his family. The overall direction they took with this film puzzles me. At the time Mr. Cobain was exactly what the music industry needed.... a voice for the different, the young and confused. They never came close to expanding on any of that. Instead, they went with "unruly-child- with-a-drug-habit".Really? 'cause that only describes a few rock stars childhoods from the last 50 years right. Our society always looks for flaws to exploit, even in death. When they should be celebrating what the dead accomplished. Where was Dave Grohl? Not only was he one of Kurts best friends but he was also 33% of the friggin band. If he had the smarts to stay away from this mess, so should we. This review is just my opinion. I have heard and seen everything about Kurt n Nirvana and encourage you to judge for yourself.
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Intense portrayal which relies on source material
crocolm10 April 2015
It's 21 years since Kurt Cobain's death by suicide and his status as a legendary alternative rock figure and totem for a disaffected generation has not dimmed in the intervening period.

Although I had been eagerly awaiting this documentary, at the same time I approached it with a wariness more than half expecting it to be a depressing encounter. Given what I already knew about the mental difficulties and addiction problems Kurt faced during his short life and the eventual sad outcome it was hard to believe that anything of a positive nature could be wrung from seeing this.

This is the first official documentary made about the life of Kurt Cobain. It has been made with the co-operation of his family. His daughter Frances Bean is an executive producer. His parents, sister, wife- Courtney Love, first girlfriend and fellow band member Chris Novoselic (the third band member Dave Grohl is the notable absentee) have all contributed, allowing themselves to be interviewed.

The expectation of access to intimate home videos as well as Kurt's own drawings, writing, outpourings etc and other previously unseen footage bringing with it the possibility of gaining a clearer view on Kurt Cobain's life is probably the thing which will entice most viewers to go see this. This heavy reliance on this intimate source material makes for an intense portrayal of the subject. It's also what makes it a success. It's noticeable how often for instance on screen we are shown up-close, his own words in his hand-writing in the original copybook complete with stains and other words and sentences crossed out. It's the closest place the director can bring us, next to occupying Kurt's mind. Much of the writing is angry and nihilistic but there are lots of lists too- of things to do for example; it all suggests a wildly active mind and one not easy to keep a rein on.

Home videos himself and Courtney produced, both while pregnant with, and then after Frances Bean was born similarly get us up-close and personal. It's excruciating to watch but compelling too- a couple wrapped up in each other but also in their drug dependency. When Frances Bean is born his love for her is touching but then the videos also reveal the declining health as the heroin addiction spirals.

As intense and personal as it is there are no major revelatory insights into the life or death of Kurt Cobain in this documentary. This is not a failing of the documentary as I don't think any revelatory new angles or expositions could have been expected. As well as this the title (taken from the name of a mix-tape Kurt put together) does indicate obfuscation or a lack of clarity or certainty about a picture drawn. So it should be; where a life ends so tragically definitive answers can never be presented and any distillation of his life or death into neat summations is thankfully and rightly avoided.

The documentary tells us the following (which in essence we already know or suppose we know). Kurt was an energetic, intelligent child who became withdrawn and angry as he got older, probably owing largely to his parent's divorce. He was often a lone, self-hating teenager who found a release from his angst in smoking pot and then at a certain age he discovered punk music which lit a torch and he began to teach himself guitar and write music. He was disaffected enough and genius enough to write brilliantly disaffected genius songs. His music struck a chord, Nirvana became huge almost overnight and then he struggled with the idea of being held up as a spokesperson for a generation. Desperately insecure, above all else he craved love and a need for rootedness- a family to belong to. He found this with Courtney Love and later their daughter. He sought refuge in them away from what he saw as a hostile world but tragically he also sought refuge in heroin.
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Thirsty for More
DeltaHomicide30 August 2016
I found Montage of Heck to be a scatter-brained documentary that couldn't decide which direction to go. It grabs at various forms of media culled from Cobain's family, and tosses them into a blender, with splashes of interviews and band footage.

There were some stunningly rotoscoped animation, using narration from Cobain, that briefly takes you through his dejected teenage years in Aberdeen, Washington. They also rendered the years Cobain spent living with his first girlfriend, Tracy Marander, who supported him when Nirvana started getting noticed. Marander isn't shown (only in interviews and rare photos), we just see how Kurt spent his days being creative while she was at work. Anyway, not long after, the band signed to Sub Pop and released Bleach.

There were also drawings and writings (many would make Jack Kerouac's "spontaneous prose" seem lucid by comparison) from his sketchbooks / journals, that were brought to life using muted computer graphics. These were scattered throughout, and became laborious after about the 10th time. Still, the music that accompanied them were great. We get to hear plenty of unreleased material, and I even noticed some Nirvana covers, which felt redundant.

Now, cue in Courtney Love. Sigh. It was annoying seeing her all dolled up by a makeup artist, chain-smoking and sounding incredibly untruthful about Kurt's last couple of months. I won't ruin it, but it's towards the end of the film and it made me more suspicious of her. The home videos of Kurt, Courtney, and Frances Bean were quite touching, although at times it got dark, especially some moments with just Kurt and Courtney (not 100% on who recorded them). You know he was the happiest he's ever been, but they were also plunging into the abyss of heroin and other drugs.

Overall, Montage of Heck started off as a sweet concoction that ultimately left me with a bitter aftertaste. I hear that 'About a Son' is the superior documentary, so I'll watch that in hopes of getting a deeper insight into Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.
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Not what I expected
tbjorgensen9027 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
My problem with this movie is that I simply had the wrong expectations. I thought it would be the most comprehensive portrait of Cobain ever made. But no. It's named after Cobain's 1988 mix tape of the same name, and that's exactly what this movie is - a montage.

You get to see some very interesting interviews with Cobain's parents, his sister, ex-girlfriend Tracy and Krist Novoselic. These interviews are great, but they're all very short and make up a small part of the entire movie. Which is a shame.

Apart from the interviews you get to see a lot home video footage, both from Cobain's childhood and from his last years. Some of it is interesting, other parts (like all the shots of Courtney Love's tits) are just ridiculous. I wanted to get a glimpse of Kurt Cobain's life and personality, not Love's tits.

Then you get to see animation, a visualization of Cobain talking to himself on the Montage of Heck tape (I think). They also made animations of drawings that Cobain did in his journals. To accompany these, they included shortened versions of different Nirvana songs. They also scanned text from his journal. Which does not work in a movie. I could barely manage reading the first sentence before it cut to another page.

There's also concert footage - from Reading, Live and Loud, Unplugged and other shows that every Nirvana fan has seen before - no doubt, nothing new there.

Also, before the movie starts, text on screen is telling viewers to stay in their seats through the credits for en exclusive interview with Brett Morgen. First, I'm thinking - why make us wait through the credits? Why not before? Secondly, the interview is around 15 minutes of Morgen talking about HOW INCREDIBLY GOOD the movie is.

Also - why isn't Dave Grohl there?

To sum it all up - yeah I had the wrong expectations - but still, the interviews are great, the rest isn't.

A. J. Schnack's About a Son is much better in my opinion.
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Wasted potential due to Director's ego
knoxfan20089 May 2015
I was hoping for this film to be great. As a Nirvana fan (most people who claim to like Nirvana have no idea what 'Incesticide' or even 'Bleach' is), I was looking forward to a thorough insight into this beloved figure who is still shrouded in a fog of misrepresentation and false hero worship. Unfortunately the film did not live up to expectations as it seemed the Director, "Brett Morgan" was more concerned in making the film aesthetically pleasing than emotionally interesting.

First off, a few positives about the film. 1. The way it portrays Courtney Love: She is despised by most music fans who believe she ruined Nirvana, but it's pretty clear that Kurt's self destruction was mostly his doing and his natural tendencies which add an appropriate sense of melancholy to the movie. 2. Some of the montages were nice when not excruciatingly overdone. 3. The music of course was good, it had a wide range from their b-sides (Dive), their first album (Mr. Moustache) and their popular stuff (Territorial Pissings) Including some fascinating covers of the Velvet Underground and the Beatles. 4. The story about Kurt and the "Retarded Girl" was absolutely fascinating.

However, the pacing of the film is truly awful. The first hour trudges along after a promising start and becomes bogged down in the Director's own agenda to show off his style. By far the best scenes in the film is just raw footage of Kurt and Courtney living alone in their dingy apartments and hotel rooms.

The film is appropriately titled, as the film is almost solely montages that don't progress the story and just serve again to stroke the Director's ego. Another example is the overuse of EXTREMELY LOUD to absolute silence.

Also, the ending of the film is not only unsatisfying, but extremely clichéd. There are countless films that have the same end title card and it felt awfully lazy. This is also disappointing because we experience none of the emotional damage that Cobains death has, which would have been far more interesting than 5 minutes of repetitive montages.

What's sad is that this film claimed to be the definitive Cobain Doco, but it's so obvious that there is plenty more interesting video and audio recordings made by Cobain HIMSELF that were left out in order to make way for dead end animation montages and hyper editing. The film could have been just as emotionally effective with 20 minutes cut from it.

However, I am still at least glad I saw the film, all the less wanky stuff was honestly well directed and Cobain's home video footage is nothing short of riveting and sometimes becomes really funny and beautiful.

So I give this film a 6. At the end of the day, I feel it would have been far more interesting just to sort through 3 hours of Cobain's home recordings than to watch a Director trying to steal the limelight from his charismatic subjects.
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Courtney Love Approved This Film - 1st Reason to be Skeptical!
JohnHoving27 May 2015
This movie is an insult to the memory of Mr. Cobain.

To even give it the label of documentary is even more insulting! It is a hastily put together montage of carefully crafted and depressing scenes that lead viewers to believe what Ms. Love would like the fans of her late husband to believe.

As another reviewer stated it is not "the definitive documentary" of Mr. Cobain. Far from it. Montage of Heck is simply a compilation of regurgitated film footage & a lot of crappy animation. Mr. Morgen should be ashamed of himself!

In fact huge parts of Mr. Cobain's life have been summarily left out. The parts that were included were designed to reinforce the story line that he was mentally ill since he was a teenager and has always wanted to kill himself and successfully did so when he was 27. Many can attest to the fact that this was not true! But if you are a person who is just a passing fan of the NIRVANA front man, you would believe exactly what Mr. Morgen portrays in his trashy depiction of this man's life.

He takes unconscionable liberties with the video material which he has stated over and over again no one has ever seen before and that he acquired in the recess's of the Cobain vaults. That is just not true.

I for one can point to only a few scenes that have not been scene by the public before, primarily his baby years, and yes they were adorable. The rest of the material was lifted from a variety of sources some of which include: The Year Punk Broke & MTV Live & Loud, & MTV Unplugged all footage everyone has seen many many times!

Mr. Morgen has stated again in interview after interview that this project took 7 years to see the light of day. I find that terribly hard to believe. If this took 7 years to complete, Mr Morgen should find a new occupation!

A major player in Mr. Cobain's life was left on the cutting room floor. Dave Grohl an integral part of not only NIRVANA but a close friend of Mr Cobain's was not included in the film. Yet Mr. Morgen states he did an interview he could not find a proper place in the film to include it because =at the point he was happy with his cut. Smack of a Courtney Love intervention as it is widely know that those two have been quarreling for decades!

Morgen takes liberties with Mr Cobain's already published journals, highlighting and animating sections that cater to the overall direction of the film which is essentially to show the general public how depressed and addicted Mr Cobain was at the end of his life.

It is a high subjective view and it is one Courtney Love would like people to believe in order to keep people from looking to deeply into the circumstances around her husbands death. For more on that I wold recommend watching "Soaked In Bleach". This movie unlike Montage of Trash is based on actual facts and circumstances not lies and innuendo.

I am not trying to pretend here that Mr Cobain was an angel, he wasn't. He had a drug problem, wrestled with the fame he quickly acquired and had a horrendous childhood. But to watch his mother sit there and pontificate about her son who she knows very well, she threw out on a number of different occasions is just sickening. How much was she paid Mr Morgen?

What Mr. Cobain deserves is a documentary that includes parts of the terrible film Morgen made but include the whole picture, his adolescence, his early years in forming a band, his time with The Melvins, how he created NIRVANA, the changes the band went through before becoming the band we know today. The film should also explore the circumstances of his death which were, I am sorry to say you nay sayers out there, very very suspect!

This movie is designed to pull at the heart strings of people who know little to nothing about Mr, Cobain because certainly those that do know a thing or two about him see this as the propaganda piece that it is. Mr Morgen did this because Courtney asked him to and for the money, period.
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An incredibly intimate and emotional portrait of a rock icon.
BrentHankins4 May 2015
It's been more than 20 years since the death of Kurt Cobain, and while there have been numerous documentaries, books, and television programs devoted to telling his story, it's difficult to point to any one account as being the definitive portrait of the Nirvana frontman. But Brett Morgen's fascinating film Cobain: Montage of Heck is more than worthy of that title.

Chronicling Cobain's life and career through never-before-seen home videos, sketches, audio recordings and diary entries, Montage of Heck provides an unprecedented look into the mind of one of rock music's most iconic figures. This is the first film to have the full support and cooperation of Cobain's family, and the wealth of material resulting from this partnership is staggering.

Most of the journal entries featured in the film have been animated and set to music, providing a unique and frenetic energy that seems to distract the audience from the fact that they're being forced to read in order to keep up with the narrative. Sometimes they're nothing more than a few short words, other times they're entire pages of ideas and song lyrics and scribbles, but they all showcase a mind that functioned with the same sort of reckless abandon with which Cobain played music.

But the animation isn't just limited to the words on the pages of Cobain's many journals. Indeed, there are several fully-animated sequences that are combined with recordings of Cobain recounting anecdotes from various periods in his life. These scenes, from animators Hisko Hulsing and Stefan Nadelman, have an almost dreamlike quality, and breathe an incredible amount of life into Cobain's own narration.

Montage of Heck is also peppered with interviews, with frequent quotes from Cobain's parents, his first serious girlfriend, former bandmate Krist Novoselic, and even his widow, Courtney Love (conspicuously absent is Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, who served as the band's drummer for the bulk of their short career). Once again, the cooperation of these individuals provides tremendous insight into the series of events that led Cobain into his downward spiral.

But the most emotional material, and certainly the most difficult to watch, is a lengthy segment during the film's second hour devoted to home video footage of Cobain and his wife. We see them holed up in their apartment during a heroin-fueled binge, with frequent cuts to news headlines about their drug problems, and Cobain's angry handwritten retorts. We see them at home after the birth of their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, taking baths together and cracking jokes, obviously in love despite the undeniable toxicity of their relationship.

Far from the sort of talking head style that is so common with other music documentaries, Montage of Heck instead offers the most intimate look at Cobain that we've ever seen. From the casual listener to the hardcore fan, every viewer can expect to learn something about Cobain that they didn't know before, leaving with even more appreciation for his art, and more sorrow over his tragic self-destruction.
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Disappointing documentary
mark-hall47 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I have given this movie a rating of 5, which feels generous to me after just coming from the cinema, only because the director was attempting to stick solely to the matter of Kurt Cobain, rather than that band he was in, whatever they were called (I'm sure nobody is interested in them anyway ;), and he DID do this. And as a university essay, this would have meant great marks. However, these rules seemed more like massive limitations to me. I went in wanting to know more about Kurt, of course, but as a fan I was looking for more music stuff; more Buzz, Dave, Dale, Chad, Albini, friends etc.

In a strange and telling move, the director agreed to include an interview with himself at the end of the film. To be honest, this seemed like either a way of offering us an excuse as to why we are walking away very disappointed, OR, to further grandiose himself; it's is hard to tell. He stated that he wanted to involve only the main actors in Kurt's life; those who would have been at his funeral if he had still been a janitor, rather than what he became (this wouldn't include Courtney- she has stated she wanted a rock star, and only one with a good nose at that). The problem is that he wasn't a janitor. Surely they could wiped out all the cartoons, all the journal and live stuff that has already been available for years; STILL included the cassette recordings, AND all the stuff about Nirvana and the music, and still come in at 2 hours without losing any of the GOOD stuff in there.

Personally I found the whole thing a bit embarrassing and awkward as a viewer. I felt like some horrible sycophant or creepy voyeur through most of this. MAN he would have been embarrassed also if he was alive. In my opinion Kurt's success was as part of a team of people who helped his vision come to life. Yes, he was the alpha visionary in the band, but those musicians, producers and record folk (who we are assumed to understand if this is the definitive Kurt Cobain documentary- don't matter), helped polish the thing to perfection in a manner that we all love. Apparently we are all Kurt worshippers first and foremost. Creepy!

This brings me to the thing that bugged me the most. The corny, cringe worthy sabotages of Nirvana's legacy, with all these montage video clips, which just rob the music of all its power, forcing these enigmatic and subtlety crafted songs into the directors less than subtle, frankly, ham fisted visions. At the end when you hear and see the director, you get a sense of how this was doomed from the start. Perhaps even a pinch of Kurt's modesty would have helped here.

I wrote this review because I don't want any film maker out to feel the story has been told. This film is just a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.
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An enjoyable film, but with a questionable focus
natamity22 June 2015
This documentary told me little I didn't already know about the great Kurt Cobain. With supposed access to numerous home videos, journals and members of Kurt's immediate family, friends and band mates, I find it curious the aspects of Kurt's life the director chose to focus on. It is evident that the aim of the documentary is to portray Kurt as a troubled and depressed soul, yet it doesn't provide any real insight into the events that created such a feeling in him. One such oddity is the interview with Kurt's mother which never delved deeper than the surface points of some of the major events of Kurt's life (ones that we've already learned more about from other journalists in years past). For instance: They touch on Kurt's homelessness as a teen, yet don't venture into the circumstances that caused his homelessness or have any depth of discussion about this major point in Kurt's life. How Kurt came to be the man and artist that captivated so many is still as mysterious now as it was before I watched this documentary.

Apart from the documentary's questionable focus and content, the style in which the story is told is well done, with fluid interchanges between Kurt's journal entries, old home videos, photos, sound recordings and interviews. The use of animation helped pull everything together and added a dreamy dimension to the story telling.

All in all an enjoyable, well made film, but an informative and insightful documentary it is not.
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An insult to a talented man
cicadamom-2275212 August 2015
A sad exploitation of a talented man. As a film sanctioned by his estate, it was clear this was only part of the story and only the part that they wanted to put the spin on. What a disgrace to paint Kurt Cobain as nothing but suicidal long before the success of Nirvana. The 2 1/2 hour documentary is tolerable for only about the first hour. After that, the backstory of Kurt Cobain is polluted by the relationship choice he made and a highly biased or third-party influenced (or paid for?) fallacy that this young man, despite having fulfilled his goal of being a recognized musician and having the possibly unexpected pleasure of being a father, wanted nothing more than to die. The snippets from his journals seem taken very much out of context, again to push the idea this man was suicidal for years, and the Pink Floyd "The Wall"-esque animations are cheesy and make this overly-long film a burden to continue to watch until the end. The saddest part for me was watching Kurt Cobain's mother and father, who both rejected him and would not allow him to live with him while he was a teenager, snivel about their loss. You didn't want him then, but you want him now? Many authoritative sources have debunked some of his mother's statements in this film. Very sad. Others who knew him personally adamantly have denied events portrayed in the film, even as the words came from Kurt himself, the sources noting that Kurt was quick to embellish or make up stories to cause subterfuge in the rampant media coverage at the time of his popularity.Also very telling is that Krist Novelic was interviewed for the film but not Dave Grohl due to "scheduling conflicts." In other words, he did not want or was not invited to participate and some PR firm concocted a reason for his absence that some may choose to believe. Watch the first hour to see some precious moments of Kurt as a youngster, skip the last 90 minutes unless you enjoy being manipulated.
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Montage of Disappointment
saulgoode-1632827 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I liked the home footage of Kurt as a child. I liked hearing and seeing his parents talk about him for the first time instead of just reading about them in articles and interviews. I liked hearing them recall memories, even the unpleasant ones (because they were real). I enjoyed the audio montages of art Kurt made and the animations that were designed around them. Hearing Kurt talk and seeing him laugh were great (though I can also see this anytime I want to by going to YouTube and pulling up Nirvana interviews). I loved seeing Kurt being silly, affectionate and loving with Courtney and Frances in unseen home movies.

But there's a lot that left me feeling very disappointed with this film. I do not feel that you accurately represented Kurt Cobain. I don't believe you made this film for the fans or for Frances.

Kurt as an artist; I thought this would have included his lighthouse paintings, boat paintings, fetus paintings. What about the artwork he did for the Lithium single? The In Utero art collages on the back of the album? Kurt made dolls. He made short films. He was interested in more than just one form of art. Kurt was an artist in the truest sense of the word because he was able to immerse himself in art, not just one form of it.

Kurt was a lefty and for a time he struggled with this, having to restring all his guitars upside down to make them work right for him. He loved vintage guitars and had a preference for Fenders. No mention of any of this, huh?

Between Kurt's time in Olympia and Nirvana making it big between Bleach & Never Mind " there was a whole era of time when Kurt was focusing on his band, making demo tapes, sending demo tapes out to everyone, going through drummers left and right trying to find the right fit for the band. When they finally got Chad and they signed with Sub Pop and then accidentally recorded Bleach in Drop D. There's a whole story involved with the recording of their first album. Why wasn't this in your film? Don't you think this is kind of important? I do.

Sub Pop to Geffen - Seattle to Los Angles - Reading Festival in England - to find out that they were instant stars in heavy rotation on Mtv. These are all pretty important events that were either skimmed over and given little attention or no attention/mention at all.

There's also the fact that Kurt helped many bands like the Melvins, Mudhoney, Earth, Screaming Trees - these were bands I would have never heard had Kurt not mentioned them in interviews, giving attention to his friends who were in unknown bands. He helped the underdogs. He was one.

While I can appreciate wanting to "show Courtney through Kurt's eyes",if you are going to claim to have made this film for Frances, why would you chose footage that exposes Courtney naked? You left out your interview with Dave Grohl, which many people do think is highly relevant, and included an image of Courtney Love full on nude in bed instead.

You focused on a broken little boy, who appeared to rise to stardom with little to no struggle to get there (quite the contrary, he hustled to make it and when he did make it, it wasn't because luck fell into his lap, it's because he promoted the hell out of himself and his band, he MADE it happen - and THIS is what has inspired me as an artist). I felt that the focus was more on his stardom, addiction, love and family life rather than his artistic life and person behind the name/image/band/brand and the many fascinating aspects that his fans were drawn to.

I also absolutely hate the way you ended the Montage of Heck. You didn't have a very strong opening - you had a good subject matter; that is was drew your audience in. Your ending is quite possibly one of the worst endings I've seen in any film. I get that you were trying to allude to Courtney lying about cheating on Kurt as you go from her interview talking about it to the unplugged performance where he is singing "Where Did You Sleep Last Night/In The Pines" by Led Belly. And then you just end the film. Right there. At the unplugged. That was not near the last performance Nirvana had. If you wanted to end it mid song to symbolize his life being cut short right in the middle - just ending- then it would have worked more in your favor to pull a song from Nirvana's final performance.

I even heard an interview where you smugly gloated about how Kurt's own mom and sister HATED the film when they saw it. If his mom and sister hate it, maybe that should tell you that you didn't get it right.

I whole heartedly believe you are just one more person who came along to exploit Kurt Cobain.
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The worst kind of a "documentary"
Habus27 May 2015
First of all, I'm neither Nirvana lover nor Nirvana hater. I didn't pay much attention to the band in its heyday. It was Cobain's performance of the last piece played during the MTV unplugged, which got my attention. I find the Nirvana's music OK and in my opinion beyond the mainstream standards. Even back then. In today's standards it would be light years beyond, because today there's no music in the mainstream.

Secondly, I'm reluctant to call this a "documentary" at all. It's just a mash up of private recordings along with babbling how Kurt Cobain miserable was. There are barely some dates or facts, interviews with record company members are missing completely. It just spins around a depressed heroin addict, who in fact was a pretty good poet. But that, along with the main subject of Cobain's and Nirvana's success, music, is almost not mentioned at all. The only interesting thing was the first part of animated cartoon, which seems to be narrated by Kurt himself. The rest is just kind of junk which was bothering not even Kurt Cobain back then, but is bothering other artists of today as well. This piece of low life thrash is nothing more than polished tabloid journalism. Did you hear Kurt and other band members their general opinions about the interviews? They didn't like them. They didn't like to be covered by media parasites. Sadly, the market demand was and is still very big, because the moronic so-called "fans" would do anything to get more of their idols (gods). For example PJ Harvey expressed the sickness of "journalists" (more correctly "paparazzi"), who are trying to strip the artist to the bone, so they could deliver either "biography" of "documentary". Similar thing happened to Tom Waits as well. An unauthorized biography book was published few years ago. People, would you be please so kind and leave your favorite musician/actor/princess alone, especially if they wish not to be bothered? And by the way how the hell could this Montage of Heck be "authorized", when the subject is dead? Is there a mention in his testimony, that the personal tapes should be put on the big screen? Those kinds of intimate personal recordings shouldn't be published this way at all. Never, ever.

To me it seems it was exactly this type of media coverage, which helped Kurt Cobain to pull the trigger. But I didn't know him, so I really can't tell. Still, this isn't a documentary. This is a tabloid journalism flick for the reality show freaks.

If you've paid to see this garbage, you're the part of the problem.
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No 90s feeling and lots of wrong info
cenaluc7 June 2015
Very bad movie, very important stuff missing ( bleach ..... ) and lot of parts are only bullshit. No feeling of 90s, it's a pity. Seems that the only source of all info is Love, this is the reason of above. If the documentary want to be just real ask Osbourne, not Love. Also all part after Rome and all bleach time is missing. No reference for the The movie basically want to show that he was happy with his family, sorry Love... he was not. I think it's better so see something about nirvana on youtube if you want to know the real story, however if you care just about graphic it is a great movie. Please people do not think Kurt was so simple.
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What A Waste Of Time
argyjr1 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Let me start by saying this documentary could have been an hour, tops. There's just an enormous amount of useless filler shoved in here. This film started off strong for the first 5-10 minutes then swiftly started to spiral downwards. The whole thing is a cross between what could have been a solid (not great) documentary mated w/ Pink Floyd's "The Wall" movie. To call Kurt Cobain a genius diminishes the meaning of the word altogether. He was simply a miserable, self-loathing drug addict. When Courtney Love finally enters this film, she brings this slow-moving train to a complete halt. The only redeeming aspect of this film are the home movies of Kurt interacting w/ his infant daughter.

One would think that Kurt's involvement in Nirvana would be an integral part of this documentary. Interviews with his band mates should be a must; after all, they spent a lot of time with him. Well, Dave Grohl wasn't interviewed for this film at all. He only appears in this film during archival footage of the band. How do you make the "quintessential Kurt Cobain documentary" without interviewing 1 of the 2 remaining members of the band Kurt helped to create?!

This film is a complete waste of time and was way better suited as a book. It's filled w/ the scribbles of an obviously depressed human being. 20 minutes into this film I couldn't wait for it to be over. Terrible.
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Carefully stitched movie to expose the darker side of Kurt
gowthamadi25 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was made particularly to unnecessarily show the darker side of Kurt Cobain. It was created to show he was suicidal, which he was not. This movie doesn't show the main part of him, his death. This is only created to divert the attention from "Soaked in Bleach". The only good thing about this movie is that we can see Kurt's works from the background. This is only a documentary focusing on one aspect of Kurt. Even though they tried to show his negativity, ultimately you can see that Courtney was the culprit due to her negativity and addiction. She was the wrong person to get married to Kurt. If he hadn't married her, he would have been with us now, here. I hope his case reopens.
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The Quintessential Kurt Cobain Doc
KnightsofNi117 May 2015
Some say that you're not a true rock and roll legend until you've had an extensive authorized documentary made about your legacy. Just kidding, nobody says that. Kurt Cobain was a legend as soon as Nevermind hit record stores, and his legacy continues today, immortalized by Nirvana and the massive impact his genius had on punk rock. But not only was he one of the best rockers who ever lived, Kurt Cobain was one of the most extraordinary and misunderstood minds of his generation, whose own brilliance caused his self destruction. He's a complex and intricate spider web of a person, and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck goes on the deepest and most intimate exploration of this enigmatic genius that has ever been done.

Montage of Heck chronicles Cobain's entire life, beginning with his parents meeting and Kurt's childhood, all the way up to his suicide in 1994 which is nothing more than a title card at an abrupt end of the film. Don't think that this is a Nirvana documentary, or a Courtney Love documentary, or any other kind of documentary other than a Kurt Cobain documentary. Montage of Heck examining his relationship with his family, his lovers, his band, and Nirvana's massive following which played on Kurt as a blessing and a maddening curse.

Montage of Heck is directed by Brett Morgen, the director of my personal favorite ESPN 30 for 30 episode, June 17th, 1994, a sports documentary that only uses news footage from one particular day in sports to tell its story. Morgen employs similar techniques here. The amount of home video footage that exists of Cobain from his adolescence all the way through his relationship with Courtney Love (which includes some pretty disturbing drug induced home video), is astounding. Montage of Heck is brilliantly pieced together through this home video footage, interviews with people close to Kurt, audio recordings of Kurt and friends, and Kurt's own journal writings and drawings, gloriously animated in what makes for the most fascinating look into the mind of this troubled genius.

Some of the best parts of the film take us through his journals where his mad scientist scribbles and macabre H.R. Giger-esque drawings show us his reactions and feelings towards the band, their rising popularity, Courtney Love, etc. all to paint a fascinatingly intricate portrait of this man. To call Montage of Heck an examination of Kurt Cobain would be doing a disservice to this great doc. Montage of Heck is less of an examination and more of a journey, a violent yet graceful boat ride into the seas of one of rock and roll's most dynamic minds. It's a film that is as beautiful as it is brutal, and as sentimental as it is visceral.

This is the most honest and in depth insight into a man who seemed to have everything, yet battled demons all his life to find what really could make him happy. Sadly, those demons won, but not before Kurt Cobain could be immortalized as a rock and roll icon. And now we're lucky enough to have this film which celebrates all that he left behind. A film that shows us not only who Kurt Cobain was on stage, but who he was as a passionately flawed human being who wanted nothing more than to love, be loved, and rock the f out.
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Simple but worth a watch
magicmarker-3773130 April 2015
I have read a couple Bios of Nirvana and found this doc to be fairly simplistic. Still I enjoyed seeing the unseen footage and cartoon montages. What I was really hoping for was a bit more focus of Kurt when he lived in Evergreen and was dating Toby Vail(would have liked to of seen her in the doc). The experience he had during that time is what inspired him to write many if not all of the songs from Nevermind. What the doc did include was well done. I also wish there was a few more people included in the doc. Dave Grohl, Chad Channing, Toby Vail, to name a few. Still A must watch for any Nirvana/Kurt Cobain fan. The story of Kurt Cobain is a frustrating one his personality mixed with his addictions was what ultimately led to his downfall. I really wish he would have sucked it up and stuck around a bit. I will admit the Doc did a good job capturing just how sensitive and awkward he was before during and after his fame.
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a_aziz_tarek31 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This movie suffers from misleading advertising. This is NOT the definitive documentary. If you were looking for a story about Nirvana, the songs or the rock stardom then you will be heavily disappointed. I think this is a story about Family, Parenthood and Addiction. The tragedy of 2 generations in the same family that were cursed with dysfunctional relationships, selfishness, irresponsibility, self-destructiveness and of course addiction. Kurt was abandoned as a child, and he was tossed around between his parents and other family members, because as they themselves put it in blaming each other "couldn't handle him". And then there is Courtney and Kurt the married couple, the parents, the addicts, and the damage they could have inflicted on their baby. I used to think that Cobain killed himself because of what was happening with the music, and the stardom that he never desired, but after seeing this movie, I am more inclined to think that he was torn between his love for his child, his yearning for building a family that didn't resemble the one he had as a child, and his inability to raise her, mainly due to his addiction -some of the footage was immensely disturbing- I don't think he could bear the idea of the inevitable future of her being taken away from him. But then again, if this was true, he chose to give up and abandon her all together. This a beautifully made film, tries to go inside Kurt's mind and relive the events in his life that led to his tragic death. It is also the saddest movie I have ever scene.
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Should have been a book -not a film
heldriver29 April 2015
Montage of Heck is exactly what the name suggests, a montage. An overly long montage I'd say. Most of the film is made up of hand written notes and drawings from what appears to be from Kurt's scrapbook. And that's the problem; notes and drawings don't make for good film material. The film makers have thrown in a few interviews for good measure, but they add nothing to a story that's already been told a million times. I'm no big Nirvana fan, yet I learned nothing new from watching all 133minutes of this film. Kurt's mom and sister, Courtney, Krist Novoselic and Kurt's ex-girlfriend are the only people interviewed (if I'm forgetting someone it's because the film really didn't hold my attention). Where are the interviews with Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Pat Smear, ex members Dale Crover and Chad Channing (to name but two) and Kurt's friends Buzz Osbourne and Dylan Carlson (again to name but two)? And there must have been so many other people behind the scenes that could have contributed to the story, childhood friends, managers, crew members, even bleeping drug dealers. I know the title says montage, but I was hoping for a documentary and was greatly disappointed.
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cody-188-36564520 June 2015
I agree with other reviews that this was an opportunity for Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain's parents to whitewash the whole affair and the director to pad his resume.

A lot of the 'cut scenes' went on way too long and had nothing to to with the story. Not only that, many inserted footage designed to disturb you or help you come to certain conclusions about Kurt Cobain's state of mind.

The documentary made Kurt Cobain look like a crazy, drug addicted fiend. It was rather one dimensional and didn't do a great job of showing him as an individual or the artist he was. It wouldn't be crazy to consider it character assassination.

I haven't had the opportunity to watch the other Nirvana documentaries out there, but they have to be better that this one.
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I don't think I have words to describe how good I thinks this documentary is
lexi-guiot3 May 2015
It really does take the myth out the man, and you are able to see him as real person who was super talented and unfortunately was never truly happy with himself and you see glimpses of happiness when he is with his family and band mates or playing music. I loved it, and it has stayed in my head for days because I always had this idealism towards who Kurt was, that seeing him as just a human being with severe self-acceptance issues, and at the same time, a very honest and sensitive guy who loved his wife and daughter, but could only love them the way he knew how, it was really cool and refreshing.

People who do not like this documentary are of course entitled to their opinion, but I have never watched any nirvana or Kurt documentaries and I thought this one was a great presentation of the man he was and how he saw the world, so I don't get why you would not like this and think other documentaries are better.

It is all about perspective and what the documentaries focus on, so I don't understand why people think they needed to see more footage of this or that...

I 100% recommend this one!
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