Film Highlight: Kurt Cobain: About a Son


Kurt Cobain: About a Son
Bell Museum Auditorium

The songs on the soundtrack aren't Nirvana's, and their faces rarely show up in the film's still photos, but the only voice you'll hear during Kurt Cobain: About a Son belongs to Cobain, the grunge band's doomed frontman. Music journalist Michael Azerrad has repurposed hours of interview footage for this impressionistic documentary by director AJ Schnack. Unfortunately, Cobain's interminable ramblings come off as the voice of an adolescent, rather than that of an innovative genius. Long rants against his parents and the media, coupled with explanations as to why he can get away with heroin addiction but must advise regular people to stay away from drugs, paint a picture of a man unable to cast an objective eye on his own experiences. To anchor the narrative, Schnack has assembled hours of scenes from the Washington towns Cobain called home. As head shots of working-class people and lumber yards roll on endlessly, the viewer might be forgiven for mistaking the film for a long Aberdeen Mutual Insurance Company commercial. The cascade of Pacific Northwest imagery—pine forests, gray skies, rain-dappled windshields—reveals Schnack's eye for beauty. But paired with a narrative short on tension, they never become more than a blur of poetic, but empty, visuals. If Cobain's band was indeed your life, you might snap out of the dreamy reverie for his recollections about his childhood, the Olympia scene, and his Nirvana bandmates. But what importance are we to place on the late-night mutterings of a man one year away from suicide? If Cobain was mentally ill during these interviews, he hides it so well one wonders about the truthfulness of everything else he says. But if Azerrad captured Cobain in a rare period of stability, he captured a man fatally mistaken in his assessment of his own invincibility. Friday through Sunday at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 5:00 p.m.