Cobain: About a Son (USA; 96 min.)
directed by: AJ Schnack
Beth says: "I really wish this and Monkey Warfare had not been literally back to back – my festival highlights came in a clump, as a result. Directed by AJ Schnack, one of Chlotrudis’ Advisory Board members, the film was one of the most anticipated of the docs showing this year in Toronto, and for good reason. AJ took the audio interviews Michael Azzerad had with Kurt in preparation for his biography, and then filmed images from the three cities where Kurt lived out most of his life – Aberdeen, Olympia and Seattle WA. When Kurt speaks of his father taking him to work, we see a lumber yard and hear Queen, the music Kurt listened to in the car to while away the time. It’s a meditative, reflective piece about growing up different in the northwest, about the meaning of and struggle for creativity and success as an artist and a person, and about Kurt Cobain the man trying to make sense of Kurt Cobain the rock star. This is not a new chapter in the legacy of Kurt Cobain; diehard fans hoping to learn more, or find answers, about either Kurt or Nirvana will probably be disappointed. This is a portrait of an artist as a young man, after we know the artist never lived beyond his youth. 4 1/2 cats
"KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival"
|Michael says: "AJ Schnack’s challenging documentary
KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON is a very personal film, which makes it a very individual
experience for each person who sees it. Schnack avoids the usual music documentary
route, clips of the subject talking or performing, interviews with friends,
managers, colleagues, etc. Instead, given rare access to the taped conversations
of Kurt Cobain and music journalist Michael Azerrad, AJ shares Kurt’s
voice with viewers combined with beautiful images of the Pacific Northwest…
scenes and people that Kurt might have seen during his life, and music that
he might have listened to. Cobain’s intimate narrative does draw us
in and AJ keeps the visuals interesting and engaging.
"I call KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON challenging because it’s so incredibly personal. The success or failure of the film depends largely on how well you as a viewer, connect to Cobain’s voice and words. I never really thought about it before, but I have a pretty complex relationship with Mr. Cobain and his band. Through the late 70’s and most of the 1980’s I was really into music. I was into music the way I’m into movies today. I was in a band that played in Boston clubs… I took semi-annual trips to Toronto to go record shopping on Queen St. and at Sam the Record Man. During the 1990’s with the emergence of Nirvana and grunge, I just started to lose interest. Music wasn’t for me what it used to be. I wasn’t that thrilled by the new direction it seemed to be going in… and then I really got into film. Nirvana was so huge… so pervasive, that it’s hard not to equate my loss of interest in music with them, even though I find some of their music quite good. Ultimately, for me, they represent a shift in my interests away from music which is something that I miss. Which brings us back to the film.
"It was difficult for me to listen to Kurt speaking without this weird undercurrent of blame for Nirvana starting this major shift in music during the 90’s. When I’ve read interviews with Cobain I always thought he was a thoughtful and interesting guy, and that feeling was certainly there during this film, but there were also feelings of negativity that I couldn’t really define until I thought it all through. It’s amazing what kind of an impact Kurt Cobain had on a culture (even if you weren’t a fan) to represent (for me, at least) something so huge. Plus his career was so unusual; he became so famous, so fast, and his death took him away so quickly as well. It took me some conversation and thinking it through for me to wrestle with my feelings about the film based on the personal filter through which I was watching it, and any film that makes me think that much, and keeps me coming back to it a couple days after I’ve seen it is a successful film in my mind. 4 cats"