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Kurt and Courtney

January 31, 2014

Kurt and Courtney (1998)
Director: Nick Broomfield

kurtcourtneylottery.jpg (400×267)

Synopsis: British documentary filmmaker, Nick Broomfield, sets out to discover more about the life and music of Kurt Cobain, but increasingly comes up against the intransigence of Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, and her attempts to censor the documentary and the press in general…

Review: This ramshackle, shaggy dog story of a documentary on Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, starts off with provocative auteur Nick Broomfield meanderingly trying to manufacture a narrative out of the compelling raw materials of the life of Kurt Cobain and especially his death and the swirl of conspiracy theories surrounding that. The early sections of the documentary would seem to betray Broomfield’s disingenuousness and lack of clarity on what he’s trying to do with the subject matter, as with a generic, drifting focus on Cobain’s family and old friends in Aberdeen, Seattle and Portland, he idles on pointless scenes such as when Broomfield himself gets kicked out of a building where a young Cobain used to fire his air-rifle (presumably kept in just because this strict, censorous tenor amused the libertarian sensibility of Broomfield).

In the end, what saves Kurt and Courtney – and perhaps inadvertently – is that very openness of Broomfield’s style. Trying to gain a sense of whether Cobain really did commit suicide or Courtney Love topped him, as Broomfield circles round a motley array of Cobain/Love associates in Washington, Oregon and California, you gain a sense that the sheer eccentricity, deprivation and unreliability of these ‘players’ imprints the notion that there almost isn’t much of a difference between suicide or homicide in this case – Cobain and Love’s upbringings, lifestyles, paranoias and drug habits were so wretched and morally bankrupt, that a violent end was an inevitable outcome. You almost couldn’t make up the strange litany of characters that Broomfield chances upon – from Love’s monstrously mercenary father, to one of Cobain and Love’s flaky, druggy friends in Portland, to a private detective who has almost become a ‘missionary’ for the case against Love, to the bizarre LA freak show ‘El Duce’ who claims he turned down $50,ooo from Love to kill Cobain. Whether Broomfield’s realisation of his story is perhaps a bit more measured than appears on screen is a moot point, but there’s no doubting that his intrusive, DIY aesthetic suits the sensationalism of the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love story perfectly. (January 2014)

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