Courtney Love Reunites With Daughter After 5 Bitter Years

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’: Sundance Review.

“It’s now my duty to/completely drain you.” You expected to hear Nirvana songs playing over the MARC Theater’s P.A. system before the world premiere of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.

Brett Morgen directed this first-ever fully authorized documentary feature about the musician, which relies heavily on Cobain’s own archive of materials, including home movies. But when that line from Nevermind’s “Drain You” came on a few minutes before the lights dimmed, you wouldn’t have guessed just how prophetic the sentiment was. Confidenti@l is told that family drama is brewing around Saturday’s premiere of “Montage of Heck,” a documentary about Kurt Cobain executive-produced by his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. A multimedia mix of the singer-songwriter’s home movies, journal entries, drawings, notebook scrawlings and audio recordings (buffered, naturally, by vintage interview excerpts and concert clips), Brett Morgen’s documentary is more than just a must-see for Nirvana fans.

The problem is that her mother, Courtney Love, is also expected at the afternoon screening, one of the most buzzed-about moments on this year’s Sundance calendar. The 22-year-old served as an executive producer on the project, which is the first fully authorised film about the late Nirvana frontman and features previously unreleased music and home movies. The first image is a haunting painting of the singer walking away from a blue, wooden panelled house surrounded by trees, as the dull, dark grey sky bears down on him. It’s an eight-years-in-the-making collective labor of love that offers a private peek into the artist’s mind, from the first creative stirrings to the spiral downward.

A source close to the pair tells us that the uneasy peace forged between them over the last couple of years is over, at least for now, and that the mother and daughter “aren’t speaking.” The source says that Frances, who was just a 1-year-old when the Nirvana singer committed suicide in 1994, won’t walk the carpet with mom and would have preferred that she “stayed away altogether.” The insider noted that it would be a struggle to keep attention-happy rock star Love away, and that if uninvited she “might just show up anyway.” The insider says that event producers are praying the tension doesn’t blow up during the glitzy events for the HBO movie, which was written, produced and directed by the maker of “Crossfire Hurricane” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” Brett Morgen. The supersized result, 132 minutes long, was made with unprecedented access to the Cobain family’s personal archives and is impressive in parts, but wildly uneven as a whole. And by the time you get to the final shot of Kurt thanking the audience at the band’s MTV Unplugged show, you don’t just feel as if you’ve gotten to know the man better.

The documentary will be accompanied by a book – also titled Montage of Heck – that delves further into material from the film, with exclusive interviews featured plus a mixture of animation stills, rare photography, and other images from Cobain’s personal archive. Too repetitive for all but the biggest fans, HBO and Universal Pictures International will have to do some serious marketing — and perhaps some pruning — to turn this into a wider breakout.

It explores his struggles with heroin addiction, his tempestuous relationship with wife Courtney Love and the days leading up to his eventual suicide in the early nineties at the tender age of just 27. — “It is a respectful, amicable parting of ways and both Mandy and Ryan are asking for media to respect their privacy at this time,” representatives for the duo said in a joint statement. It offers up private home-movie footage, never-before-seen artwork and unheard demos, plus record-straightening insights from contemporaries and the Cobain family, who are all on board.

The film starts before Cobain was even born in Aberdeen, Wash., with the singer’s mother, Wendy, recounting how she met her husband, Donald Cobain, and ended up marrying him even though she wasn’t necessarily in love. The documentary, Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard around the World, recounts the real-life adventures of Miles Scott — a 5-year-old diagnosed with leukaemia who wanted to be Batman for a day. Not fun,” Love told the Telegraph in April of last year. “But without getting into her personal life, which she’s very private about, she saw people being dishonest and craven, and she eventually came back and said I need my mom.” While this might seem like a premature point to start at, it makes sense when, not much later, the film goes into some detail about the devastating effect Don and Wendy’s divorce had on their eldest, Kurt, who was only 9 when they separated. In November 2013, the Make-a-Wish Foundation famously transformed San Francisco into Gotham City to fulfill Miles’s dream, as he was dressed up as Batkid and defeated both the Riddler and the Penguin. —

A radically different view of the 1980s comes from Straight Outta Compton (dir F Gary Gray, due out in the US in August), an a biopic about the rise of hard-hitting Cali rap crew NWA that – annoyingly – shares its title with a forgettable 1999 drama. “I don’t know any other movie where you can mix gangster rap, the FBI, the LA riots, HIV and fucking feuding with each other,” says Ice Cube (played here by his son O’Shea Jr; Cube produces, alongside Dr Dre). The already hyper and hypersensitive child became completely unruly as a result, staying for a few weeks at a time at the homes of different family members before being thrown out time and again.

There are snapshots of him as a sullen teen, with Kurt’s voiceover describing how discovering pot and punk helped him cope with a profound sense of alienation. Celebrated character actor Paul Giamatti plays their manager, adding some quirk; filming in Compton, meanwhile, was disrupted by a real drive-by shooting in August, proving how little things have changed in a divided LA. Like much of the film, the early-going contains not only archival footage but also Kurt’s own drawings and a lot of home-video material, with the precocious blond banging away on a plastic piano and a baby drum set before he was even 2 years old. A number of “controversial” (which usually actually means “perfectly reasonable”) female artistes are also set to get the documentary treatment this year. It’s in here, as are glimpses of endless notebooks filled with artwork, prospective band names (The Reaganites, Hare Lip), and embryonic versions of what would become iconic songs.

Outspoken and unbowed, the troubled Nina Simone’s commitment to civil rights is one focus of a forthcoming Netflix “epic”, What Happened, Miss Simone? (dir Liz Garbus), which also finds ample space for Simone’s extraordinary music in the form of unheard songs and unseen archive footage. Rendered in a dense and painterly style, these more lyrical segments are accompanied by swelling, almost haunting orchestral versions of some of Nirvana’s most famous hits. Testimonials from his family members, ex-girlfriend Tracy Marander, Novoselic and Love help bridge the gaps between flipping through the pages and sifting through the Kurtaphenalia. (Dave Grohl is conspicuously absent, which Morgen explained in the postscreening Q&A: He only interviewed the Foo Fighter three weeks ago, after he’d locked the film down.

A biopic called Nina, shown at Cannes in 2014 and unrelated to Garbus’s doc, still awaits general release, mired as it is in lawsuits and controversy over its choice of actress Zoe Saldana as Simone: too pale-skinned, say many. Not everyone will warm to these semifictional “reenactments,” but they do make it abundantly clear that Kurt was an artist in the larger sense rather than “just” a musician. There’s a chance he’ll edit the footage in some time in the future, the director said.) But any Rock Documentary 101 concessions pretty much stop there. Depending on your viewpoint, Maya Arulpragasam (aka MIA) is either a loud-mouth shock tactician or a fearless singer whose commitment to banging global beats and justice for the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka are exemplary.

This impression only increases when Morgen adds (often also lightly animated) excerpts from Cobain’s written notes — he left more than 4,000 pages in total — which show both his growth and continued doubts as a person and a lyricist (as well as his occasionally wobbly spelling). The way Cobain felt, especially after his long-desired first sexual experience went awry and that then became known in school, directly fed into his attraction to punk rock, with its shouted lyrics about anger and alienation. Both Sophie Fiennes’s Jones doc and Loveridge’s MIA adventure have benefited from successful pitches for BFI funding last year; an ovation is deserved. It takes almost an hour before the film discusses the release of Nirvana’s amazingly successful second album, 1991’s Nevermind, which would make the three megastars.

The film does try to suggest the effect all this unexpected attention had on the group, with Cobain, who could clearly not handle this from the start, most often hiding behind his long blond locks during press interviews. We also get a disjointed, disorienting look at fame through his eyes, seen as a jumble of shows, news reports and vapid TV interrogations that all bleed together.

His own notes reveal that the only reason he kept touring was that he felt all the media hassle was redeemed by the sensation of simply playing live, and Novoselic explains that he tried to cope with the sudden pressure of stardom by drinking beer and wine, but Cobain’s drug of choice was heroin. And we get an uncomfortably intimate look at his life with Courtney, including self-shot close-ups of the couple making out, bitching about their treatment in the press and a pregnant Love showing off her breasts.

Rather than aiming for completism, Miles Ahead focuses on two specific periods in Davis’s life, the 1980s and the late 1950s, aiming for wider truths, rather than pernickety accuracy. She’d already been an addict as well, and after they got married, instead of touring, Cobain withdrew to their apartment to simply paint and do heroin.

Starring The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane, Tom Hardy (who has also played Charles Bronson), it’s billed, with the restraint and understatement typical of Elton himself, as a “larger-than-life movie musical spectacle”. Several interviewees suggest that Cobain simply wanted to build a stable home and family, since he never had one, but clearly, stardom and drugs made that impossible. Hardy has revealed that he prepared for the role by dressing in Elton John’s clothes (source: Daily Mail) and that he “can’t sing to save his life”. A lot (read: too much) of home-video footage of the Cobain-Love household is inserted here, though it does provide a little bit of insight into the kind of home they were giving their daughter (one of the film’s weirdest moments is a crack-baby animated segment, and one can’t help but wonder how Frances must feel about that).

Which just makes it that much more heartbreaking to watch Kurt unravel via violent voicemails and pages of his notebook that attest to a cry for help — one entry is simply the phrase “Go kill yourself” repeated over and over. The most haunting moment comes when Rolling Stone’s David Fricke can be heard over the soundtrack asking Cobain about the In Utero outtake “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”: “Either you’re being really satirical, or you’re going to a real dark place here.” Kurt’s response is a laugh that’s positively chilling. Due in September, M Train (Alfred Knopf) redirects the focus on Smith herself, her later musical life and her thus-far unexplored parallel careers as a wife and mother. In keeping with the idea that the film’s a celebration of Cobain’s life, Morgen doesn’t attempt to directly explain why he took his own life in April 1994. Yes, there’s the jaw-dropping tale of the southern rock bad boys (original singer Ronnie Van Zant was among the band members who died in a plane crash in 1977), but also Ribowsky’s wider discussion of southern manhood, the theme of Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.

It will “recall his experiences working at Bethlehem Steel, travelling in India, driving a cab in 1970s New York [and] his professional collaborations with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Robert Wilson, Doris Lessing and Martin Scorsese”. The story of the Kinks’ Ray Davies has been explored before, but the forthcoming biography by Johnny Rogan – Ray Davies: A Complicated Life (Bodley Head, 5 Mar) – looks set to up the Kinks industry ante.

Rogan has considerable form; he covered the breakdown between Morrisey and Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr in the celebrated The Severed Alliance and is well placed to referee the vicious feuding between Ray and his brother, Dave. Similarly, folk rock fan-turned-journalist-cum-PR-turned-biographer Mick Houghton takes as his subject Sandy Denny, leading light of the British folk-rock movement of the late 1960s and – trivia alert – the only guest vocalist ever to record with Led Zeppelin. By contrast, following on from his 2012 book on British independent labels, How Soon Is Now, Richard King’s Original Rockers (Faber, 2 April) takes a sidelong glance at the ecosystem of the independent record shop “combining memoir and elegiac music writing”.

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