I have been on a Kurt Cobain film-watching kick lately. In case you missed my last two posts on Kurt, check them out:
[Documentary] Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
[Film] Last Days
I remember when the documentary, Kurt & Courtney was released… It was March 1998, and I was living in North Bay, Ontario, attending college there. Down the street from where I lived was Video World – a movie rental place I frequented every weekend. It was a great place to rent all sorts of obscure films. For whatever reason, Kurt and Courtney caught my eye, but at the time I was completely burned out on Kurt Cobain’s story, and definitely on Courtney Love. I just didn’t care to watch this film.
Throw forward 15 years later, and my husband and I had a 30-day trial of Netflix. Being a doc junkie, I tried the best I could to get as many documentaries in as I possibly could before the trial ended. At this point, I had loosened my grip on that whole Kurt and Courtney thing and decided to tune in. I have since watched it again recently for this write-up.
Directed by and starring British journalist, Nick Broomfield, Kurt & Courtney follows Broomfield as he interviews people in Kurt Cobain’s life who knew him best, like his ex-girlfriend, Tracy, his best friend, Dylan, and his aunt, Mary, a musician herself, who fostered Kurt’s musical talent in a big way by allowing him to record using her equipment and musical instruments.
At the heart of the film, is the theory that Kurt did not commit suicide, but was murdered. There is the accusation that Courtney is partly responsible for Kurt’s death, either through collusion with someone who she paid to murder him, or as an accessory to his murder. This is brought forward by Courtney’s own father, Hank Harrison, who proudly vilifies his own daughter. He says he doesn’t know if Courtney is responsible, but believes Kurt was murdered, and suspects Courtney knows what happened. Another character, someone who went by the name El Duce, claims Courtney paid him $50,000 to have Kurt knocked off, but never went through with it. The film attempts to cast a shady light onto Courtney herself, who at this point in the timeline has totally changed her image from gutter punk to affected Hollywood starlet. In a brief guerrila-style interview in the film, Courtney is deflective, shifty and dismissive, refusing to answer any questions about anything (which was her right). Although the film brings up some interesting theories on Courtney, I am no further convinced that Kurt’s death wasn’t a suicide. But, then again, I think Broomfield had a hard time not being biased against Courtney. Evidence to this is demonstrated when Broomfield shared the challenges he faced in making Kurt & Courtney; you could definitely hear the disdain in his voice for Courtney from the get-go as she refused to license any Nirvana songs for his film. Further still, when she managed to sic some of her lawyers onto his film’s financial support system in an attempt to halt production, putting the whole documentary’s budget in jeopardy.
Broomfield produced an okay film here; I wouldn’t say Kurt & Courtney was the best film on Kurt, or the most interesting. The off-beat cast of characters in Kurt’s life moved the film along and brought some real humanity to such a tragic story.
Kurt and Courtney
Dir: Nick Broomfield