Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 95 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:
This was either the worst documentary I have ever seen, or the very best.
Let me explain… and definitely don’t get me wrong here, this film was terrible, but in its terribleness, it managed to serve two very important needs: first, as inspiration and second as a guideline for how NOT to produce a film.
“Kurt and Courtney” is apparently a labor of love for documentarian, Nick Broomfield, but comes across more as a labor of hate. The film works as a loose biography of Kurt Cobain and feebly attempts to convince the audience that the Nirvana front man’s 1994 suicide was a cover-up to a murder/conspiracy orchestrated by his wife, Courtney Love. The film would have been hilarious had it not been so pathetic. Broomfield stars as himself, badly portraying a documentary filmmaker apparently in search of truth but comes across as a jilted lover on a crusade. Now I am not saying that there might not be some inconsistencies in the events surrounding Cobain’s death but whatever those inconsistencies are, Broomfield failed miserably to document their existence or to provide any semblance of a working theory to what may actually have transpired.
This film is a must see for any budding filmmaker, especially one interested in producing expository documentary film. (I can see, now how this statement will come back to haunt me as it is incredibly easy to take out of context.) In any event, after witnessing this train wreck of a film, I could only think to myself, “Jeez, my DOG could have done a better job with this material.” (Author’s note: I don’t have a dog.) If this film can get made, it is an inspiration to any of us out there with video cameras and a funky story to tell. Shoot away, my friends, nothing you capture on film could be as bad as this.
I don’t even know where to start when explaining how this film should be used as a textbook for how NOT to produce a documentary so I’ll just start.
First, one might want to approach documentary filmmaking from a little stronger position as objective observer rather than appearing to be on a mission to drag one of the subjects through the mud and, at the same time, glorify one’s own “genius”. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the world’s biggest Courtney Love admirer but Broomfield doggedly pursues Love in a way that is frankly, scary. Unfortunately, he has chosen to use hearsay and subjective opinion to prove that Love is a goal-driven, career oriented “harpy” and spends little to no time tracking down anything in the way of evidence that she is, in fact, directly responsible for Cobain’s death. Last time I checked, being bitchy and manipulative were still not crimes. Frankly, Broomfield places himself in front of the camera, asks leading questions, interrupts those he is interviewing and offers opinion regarding why his funding has been pulled (and implicates Love) so often in this film that it ceases to be so much about Cobain, Love and conspiracy as his woes as the documentarian himself. At one point, the comical interviewee “El Duce” who supposedly was hired by Love to kill Cobain states clearly that he knows who actually did kill the popular singer and then seems to slip up and state the person’s first name. Broomfield is so caught up in his own little world that he neglects to follow this statement up with any line of questioning. Take note young filmmakers, this is not strong technique.
Second, select your interview subjects with care. Junkies, ex-lovers, and long-lost dads do not strong witnesses make. It might also be a good idea to attempt to interview subjects who are sober or, at the very least, credible. Crackpot ex-boyfriends who have little to add to the storyline should also be avoided like the plague and I don’t even know where to begin with Love’s estranged (and obviously bitter) father who has now written two books on Cobain, a man whom he never even met and who describes wielding pit bulls on his daughter as “tough love”.
Third, interview the principals and the authorities. The other members of Nirvana, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Pat Smear were never even mentioned during the course of this film mush less actually interviewed. Authorities with the Seattle Police Department were also strangely absent. The closest we come to any member of law enforcement is Tom Grant; ex-Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department member turned Private Investigator (not a shining resume for believability).
Fourth, don’t offer coincidental technical screw-ups as corroborating evidence. If you didn’t get the shot for whatever reason, it doesn’t lend credence to one’s argument to include information about how, if the tape hadn’t broken/batteries had not worn out/cameraman had not had a panic attack/interviewer had not chickened out the viewer would have been treated to aliens admitting to killing Kennedy or whatever. In a similar vein, don’t include information supplied by individuals that is factually inaccurate. At one point, Tom Grant (our friendly P.I.) states that Cobain never mentioned suicide in his lyrics or writings prior to the event. Anyone familiar with Nirvana knows this to not be true.
You get my point. A seemingly interesting subject for study, the life and death of Kurt Cobain is certainly worthy of discussion. This film brought little to the table, however that has not already appeared in numerous articles and books previously offered up for public consumption. Broomfield makes a (potentially) valid point that the death of Cobain may have not been all that it appeared to be but fails in his goal to shed any semblance of light on that event or those that led up to Cobain’s death. Hopefully, filmmakers can learn from the egoism and mistakes demonstrated in the making of “Kurt and Courtney” and not subject an audience to this drivel in the future.
DVD Specifications ^ Nothing in the way of extra features appeared on this transfer that was completed in full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The soundtrack was produced in Dolby 2.0 and no additional tracks or close captioning was included.
Posted on February 17, 2002 in Reviews by Stuart Swineford
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- MICHAEL, AJ AND STEVE: ABOUT A DOC
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