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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00
11/2 - 11/8/2007
Reviewed by Diane Carson
There have been many documentaries abut various musical artists and musical groups. And the films usually follow a rather formulaic pattern: interviews with past and present members of the band, family and friends; struggles in the early days, success, tragedies with alcohol and/or drugs, and finally some insights into fame, some hard-fought awareness, and success again. While the story IS familiar, this does not do justice to director AJ Schnack's imaginative Kurt Cobain: About a Son.

It interweaves music by other groups with selections from over 25 hours of Cobain's own commentary about his life. Journalist Michael Azerrad recorded the audio from December 1992 through April "Ë92 for his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Cobain's chronologically organized commentary touches on his happiness until eight years old when his mother's divorce had a profound impact on him, his being a geek in high school, stomach pain, seclusion, drugs and his thoughts of suicide. Knowing he ended his life in April 1994 at 27 years of age adds impact.

The audio excerpts and music accompany contemporary shots from Cobain's three important Washington state locations: Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle. We see trucks and railroad cars heavy with logs, individuals of all ages facing the camera, roads, businesses, and lovely, haunting scenes of nature. These are presented with superimpositions, lots of tracking shots down streets, fades to black, a smattering of animation, some slow motion and some rapid fire edits. Above all, what distinguishes Kurt Cobain: About a Son is Cobain's honesty about his wanting to fit in, his anger, conflicts, and, of course, the temporary salvation of punk rock, playing the guitar, and Nirvana. I didn't sit down to watch Kurt Cobain: About a Son with enthusiasm, thinking this would be another formulaic documentary. It is not, and its impressionistic visuals invite listening to and thinking about Cobain's observations about himself and ours about him. Those who want a Nirvana performance documentary will not embrace it. Those who want surprises or secrets won't find them here either. But Kurt Cobain: About a Son has a deceptively casual, thought-provoking appeal. At Landmark's Tivoli Theatre through November 8th only.

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