Kurt Cobain has yet to receive his splashy Great Man biopic, but the cinema that has been made from his life and work with Nirvana is both more rewarding and very diverse. There has been a conspiracy theory documentary (“Kurt and Courtney”), an art film (“Last Days”) and an experimental doc (“Kurt Cobain: About a Boy”). Now there’s “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” a life-spanning exploration that nevertheless doesn’t feel like a rock doc. That’s because it comes from Brett Morgen, the rare documentarian who, in “The Kid Stays in the Picture” and “Chicago 10,” has favored the sensational and experiential parts of movies over basic Wikipedia-style exposition.
Though this covers Kurt’s entire life, this isn’t just about information. It’s a very stylized look at his life.
It’s not a movie about Nirvana, and it’s not a movie about Seattle, and it’s not a movie about grunge. It’s a movie about a boy. And we go on a journey with him through his life. It’s a lot closer in spirit to “Boyhood” than it is to any rock doc that I can point my finger at. Most films are presented from the outside looking in, especially in documentaries. This is presented from the inside out. That is a tribute to Kurt Cobain and how expressive he was with his art. The idea of the film is that Kurt was creating this audio-visual autobiography of his experiences through life. It wasn’t just music; it was sound design and films and super 8 filmmaking and cartoons and doodling and journaling. I can’t think of another artist who documented their life in a manner that lends itself to cinema more than Kurt Cobain.
In interviews you've long been very vocal about making docs that really exploit the film medium.
If I was doing a book on Kurt it would take on a different shape and form. But when I’m approaching a subject I’m always thinking to myself, how can I use the medium of cinema to advance this experience? I want to use every inch and every frame and every speaker I can to access that experience for the viewer. It’s something I really started to invest in in “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”