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Latest Cobain documentary leaves one heck of an impression

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The long-anticipated documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” premiered on HBO May 4 after its original debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Compared to other Cobain documentaries, such as “Kurt & Courtney” or “Kurt Cobain: About a Son,” “Montage” takes the cake for the greatest cinematic representation of the grunge musician’s life to date.

Cooperation of the Cobain clan

Unlike previous attempts to document Cobain’s life, director Brett Morgen achieved success with the help of family and friends close to the musician. Interviews with Cobain’s parents reveal the downward spiral effect their divorce had on his youth, including a series of couch-hopping from relatives’ homes. “Montage” also features never-before-seen home videos chronicling Cobain’s life from as early as age 2 to his final days with rockstar-wife Courtney Love. Cobain and Love’s only child, Frances Bean, even co-executive produced the film.

The journals tell all

Although most die-hard Nirvana fans have probably already given Cobain’s published journals a read, the documentary brings to life his innermost thoughts through vivid animations by Stefan Nadelman and Hisko Hulsing.

Perhaps the most notable scenes from the film are the interpretations of Cobain’s exiled high school years. Caught up in the wrong crowd, an adolescent Kurt developed an addiction to booze and alcohol, which inadvertently led to his label as the “retard fucker” at school. Feeling ashamed and rejected by his peers, viewers learn of Cobain’s first attempt at suicide in this captivating, visual recreation of his journals complete with previously unreleased tracks. One of these rare mixtapes, recorded during Cobain’s relationship with Tracy Marander, was aptly titled “Montage of Heck.”

Same story, new subject

Arguably the best part of the film was Morgen’s success in preserving Cobain’s memory. Most documentaries (or any mention of Cobain for that matter) focus only on Cobain’s heavy drug addiction, leading to his controversial suicide. However, “Montage” ends with a video clip from Nirvana’s last live show in Italy, followed by a final scene that reads, “One month after returning from Rome, Kurt Cobain took his own life. He was 27 years old.” And while this abrupt ending disappoints for only a second, this is the only real mention of Cobain’s death in the film.

While Morgen could have made this the centerpiece for his documentary, as so many filmmakers have done before him, he took a new approach to answer the questions viewers never even realized they had. “Montage of Heck” will leave true Nirvana fans speechless after discovering there was much more buried beneath the I-don’t-care exterior of the late grunge icon than meets the eye.

Haley Rodriguez can be reached at [email protected] or @llcool_hay on Twitter.

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Latest Cobain documentary leaves one heck of an impression