Movie Magazine International

Kurt and Courtney

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

"Kurt and Courtney," Nick Broomfield's documentary about doomed grunge king, Kurt Cobain, and his ambitious wife, Courtney Love, immediately brought the filmmaker notoriety when it was pulled from the Sundance Film FestivalÖparticularly considering that Broomfield is, in fact, one the sitting jurors of the documentary category.

Apparently, the film was pulled due to musical rights that Broomfield had failed to secure from EMI but even after said songs were removed, Sundance still said "no" fearing further legal trauma.

The film itself is a disturbing portrait of Cobain as a serious artist deeply embarrassed by the trappings of fame. Interviews with his Aunt Mary reveal the most endearing aspects of him. Mary plays a tape of two-year-old Kurt really rocking out to Beatles and Monkees tunes ó "Early Nirvana," she called it. Knowing where it was all headed, the scene is intensely sad. It was she who gave him his first guitar, helped him with recordings and encouraged him to grow musically.

Courtney does not come off as well. The film explores the theory that she was directly involved in Cobain's death and includes interviews with Tom Grant, a private eye she once hired to track down her drug-addicted husband. Grant is currently obsessed with the idea that the amount of heroin in Cobain's body - 1.52 milliliters per liter of blood - would make him incapable of operating a gun, henceforth, he was murdered.

The most disturbing encounters, however, are with Courtney's horrific excuse for a father. This is a man who disciplined his little girl by siccing Pit Bulls on her and calling it "tough love." Not only did he start the ball rolling by writing a book, "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?" and implicating his daughter but in the film, it's crystal clear that he is the sorriest, saddest, most vile excuse for a man that ever was.

Nevertheless, an interview with an ex-lover, also a musician, that she tried to mold into a star, is scathing. He even locates a list she made of things to do in order to become famous, including, "Make friends with Michael Stipe (the lead singer of R.E.M.)" Amazingly, she followed her own instructions to the letter and has fully arrived.

"Kurt and Courtney" was made on the incredible-shrinking budget. We witness a telephone call from Showtime informing Broomfield that they were pulling out financial support due to "internal pressures" in connection with Viacom in connection with MTV, yadda, yadda, yadda. The implications are that Courtney's angry venom is far-reaching and Broomfield has been bit.

As Broomfield explained in the press conference following the screening, what began as a simple music documentary turned into an exploration of censorship. This is summed up in one of the film's final scenes. At an ACLU dinner celebrating the First Amendment and Milos Foreman, Courtney Love had just finished giving a speech chirping about "integrity" and "the importance of truth." Then we see Broomfield take the stage uninvited and challenge the ACLU to explain why it had chosen the hypocritical Love as a speaker when she was a known attacker - verbally, physically and legally - of journalists like himself. Before he could explain his plight, he was dragged from the stage.

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 2/25/98

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