Friday, October 19, 2007

About A Documentary

Coming out this weekend at a theater near you is one of the years most interesting and ambitious film experiences. Played at the Philadelphia Film Festival this year was a film called Kurt Cobain: About a Son. Part documentary, part cinema verite, part slideshow, About a Son is a film of images juxtaposed with clips taken from hours of interviews. The only voice heard is that of Cobain himself talking about his childhood, growing up in the suburbs of Seattle and his inspirations on life, his relationships and, of course, his music.

What makes this film different is it's overall style. Mostly live action shots that have loose connection to the life of Cobain, no footage of the icon is used until the very end of the film. It's an interesting focus on the anti-icon that Cobain became. The useage of footage of the areas Cobain knew as home, mainly Aberdeen, Washington and the surrounding cities in which Cobain lived, wrote, played, went to school and the like is a startling look into the soul of Cobain. The stark landscape of Washington is as deep, empty and somewhat flourishing with life just as Cobain seemed to be on the surface.

The most documenting part is the interview clips. All through the voice of Cobain himself, we hear from the horses mouth his thoughts on his troubled life and his self-image which was a stark contrast to what the media made him out to be. His troubled childhood plagued with illness and severe depression shows a deep, startling insight into his death and his psyche around the time leading up to it. One thing is for sure: after seeing this film, Cobain comes off as a normal down to earth guy who did nothing but love his child, his wife and his life outside of the limelight.

One last tidbit that makes this even more interesting of a film is it's soundtrack. One would assume we would hear some versions of Nirvana songs or even jsut some Kurt Cobain solo demoes used as backing to his stories. Instead, the filmmakers use songs that reflect what Cobain enjoyed and was influenced by. The soundtrack has some classic rock, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Up Around the Bend" which dates back to Cobain's time in a CCR cover band. Groups like Mudhoney, the Melvins, Butthole Surfers and Bad Brains which are clear examples of what Nirvana would soon to base their style of grunge and pop songs are also used and discussed in the film. Ben Gibbard's original tune "Indian Summer" is also sued in the soundtrack. He also co-wrote the score for the film.

Kurt Cobain: About a Son is definitely an interesting undertaking in filmmaking. It is a startling work of borderline genius. My only question here is does this style of filmmaking work? Would this work with any other icon or person? My guess is no given the way the interviews were done and then executed. However, this is not to say that it doesn't work for Cobain in a very breathtaking way. For lovers of cinema, this is a very impotant moment. For fans of Nirvana, this is a brilliant insight into its main man. To the average person, it may not eb the kind of moviegoing experience your looking for.

1 comment:

j. leo said...

Well, considering the last two movies I saw about Cobain were an experimental take by Gus Van Sant and that one that basically put all the blame on Courtney Love.... this sounds pretty damn good!

That's an interesting soundtrack. I remember how in Lost Days they has a scene where they all listened to Velvet's Venus in Furs, which makes sense. CCR? Intriguing.