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Kurt and Courtney

A documentary on the death of musician Kurt Cobain
by Nick Broomfield

IN SHORT: A tale of a wasted life and the pathetic starstruck people left behind. In shorter: a waste of time.

Kurt Cobain was a musician who, with his group Nirvana, was phenomenally successful and single-handedly made flannel acceptable to wear as hip gear. He also made the unfortunate dinner choice of shotgun tartar a number of years ago. His wife, Courtney Love, has since shown her feminist support of womankind with her band "Hole," which were I to use it in its usual term, would get me flamed no end.

OK, enough levity. Cranky predates Cobain and Nirvana and the entire Seattle scene by a good decade or so -- my career in the music biz was marked by such heavyweight names as Duran Duran and Boy George (so you know how pathetic that part of my life was). I was in film school when Cobain off'd himself. His importance, and the reaction by the younger kidlets in my classes, was akin to the feelings and reactions I felt back when John Lennon was murdered . . . not to make the musical comparisons, 'cuz I don't know Nirvana from Adam.

The advance buzz on the documentary Kurt and Courtney, which unveils a theory that his suicide was actually murder, was intense. Legal threats by Courtney Love's attorneys kept the film out of official competition at this year's Sundance Festival, though there were guerilla screenings of it during the festival. It has slowly rolled into theaters, this week in Cranky's hometown, New York. So off I went.

My purpose in going to see Kurt and Courtney was twofold. First, to learn a bit about the man, his music and why it had such an effect on the kidlets I knew. Second, the tantalizing talk of conspiracies revealed (and the film's talked about implication that Love was fist deep in the murder conspiracy). What I got was the equivalent of a half empty can of cheez whiz. Unless you are a dedicated and rapt follower of Cobain or Nirvana, this flick will do absolutely nothing to help you understand why this suicide was "important". If you are enraptured, it offers nothing much more than some tapes of a five year old kid Cobain singing nonsense songs. Documentarian Nick Broomfield likes pursuing the sensational but, stripped of all Nirvana music (Love refused to license music rights) and populated by a human wasteland full of interviews that tell little more, Kurt and Courtney isn't much more than a Brit looking for a juicy story. Let's face it, dead rock and rollers are usually sensational. Not in this case. Broomfield's attempts to try and pry sensational statements out of his interviewees are pitiful.

As for the talk of murder, simply, there's nothing to be found. We meet an ex-cop who wants to be the next Mark Lane (prime proponent of JFK assassination conspiracy theories), expounding how Cobain was so junked up on heroin that he couldn't possibly have gotten shotgun munchies. There's a wild eyed, fat assed punk singer called "El Duce" who swears on camera that Courtney offered him fifty thousand bucks to kill Kurt -- but he didn't take it 'cuz he wasn't sure if she was really serious. ("... but I could have done it"). And hey, all you conspiracy buffs, a couple of weeks after the film Interview, El Duce got killed by a train! Proof enough for just about anybody. . .

The big problem here is that the witnesses to the story aren't all that reliable. They're either star struck and/or dopeheads who can barely form a sentence. Broomfield is searching after a story, but it's more like a scavenger hunt. He begins the tale like an investigator, preferring not to know what he's going to find, but hoping for scandal -- kind of like his Heidi Fleiss outing. When he comes across something he finds interesting, well, the money runs out. He can blame it on Courtney's lawyers, but filmmaking is a very expensive process folks. You've got to have an idea of what you want to accomplish going in, or you're doomed.

What do we learn of Courtney love? We know she's got a mouth that could talk a blue streak out of a cloudless sky. We also know she's cleaned up her act. We know that Cobain made threats in her defense at an author who was writing about her (this from a recorded telephone message). That's about the sum total. These are/were not nice people folks. You'll get more laughs from watching the pathetic witnesses try put together full sentences, and from Broomfield explaining why things aren't going his way, than from anything newly revealed in the flick.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kurt and Courtney, he would have paid . . .


Rent it only if you really are interested and have nothing better to do.

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