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Kurt Cobain: About a Son
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by Jason Whyte

"A great road-trip journey through the mind of the grunge genius."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: A landmark documentary about a popular cultural icon, “Kurt Cobain About A Son” was one of the best films that I saw at this year’s SxSW. We have seen so many documentaries on Kurt Cobain that you could nearly have an entire film festival on his life, director AJ Schnack takes a wholly different approach that made me think that this is how Terrence Malick would tackle the story if he decided to tackle the late, great Cobain.

Instead of the usual talking heads, music clips and constantly cutting to where Courtney Love came into the story, the film takes a more visual approach by filming footage of his progressive cities, from the blue-collar of Aberdeen, Washington and then to its state capital, Olympia, and finally to Seattle. The footage is intercut with deep, penetrating music by Steve Fisk, the occasional rock song (some Nirvana, some not) and with phone interviews conducted by Michael Azerrad, a journalist who was writing a book on Cobain’s life.

With the exception of a few words spoken by Azerrad, all of the dialogue in the film comes from Cobain himself. We have no other perspectives on his life from other people, just simple and restrained commentary from Cobain the man. And not only do his words speak volumes, the images hit us even more.

As the film begins in Aberdeen, we see clips of the cold streets, the logging trucks, the aisles of Safeway as Cobain talks about his early days. To think that Cobain and Nirvana began here in this place and time is jarring. When the film moves on to Olympia, we see a barrage of stills from his (and other) concerts as his rise comes to a head. The clips get more intense and bold when Nirvana finally make the move to Seattle and have a strong start in the grunge movement.

Cobain is not shown until near the end of the film, and to complain that he should be seen more is to miss the point. For starters, we all know what he looks like. That and to see him would be to miss out on the way he sounds when he talks on the screen. We’re seeing a reflection of his life images on the screen, and I don’t think we need his face to confirm that.

“About a Son” is a meditative experience and is unlike anything I have seen before in a music documentary. From the 25 hours of interview footage and countless hours of Washington cinematography, the film will play not only well for Nirvana fans but film fans who crave something a bit different.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14909&reviewer=350
originally posted: 03/21/07 01:02:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2007 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/18/09 Carina touching and so true 5 stars
9/23/06 danny g A beautiful and meditative portrait of our reluctant icon. It totally takes you there. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Oct-2007 (NR)
  DVD: 19-Feb-2008

UK
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Australia
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Directed by
  AJ Schnack

Written by
  (documentary)

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