LOST AND FOUND

Maxim - - CONTENTS - —ja­son feifer

KURT COBAIN’S FOR­GOT­TEN ART­WORK AND THE DOC­U­MEN­TARY BRING­ING THE ELU­SIVE AN­TI­HERO INTO FO­CUS

KURT COBAIN NEVER RE­ALLY LIKED EX­PLAIN­ING HIM­SELF. BUT WITH AN UN­PRECE­DENTED LOOK AT THE WORK HE LEFT BE­HIND (IN­CLUD­ING SOME ON THESE PAGES), A NEW DOC­U­MEN­TARY FI­NALLY DOES THE JOB.

KURT COBAIN WAS fa­mously aloof in in­ter­views, a revered gen­er­a­tional spokesman who was al­ways try­ing to weasel out of the job. Since his death 21 years ago, the ques­tions have only deep­ened. Which is what makes the new doc­u­men­tary Kurt Cobain: Mon­tage of Heck, pre­mier­ing on HBO May 4, such a rev­e­la­tion. Di­rec­tor Brett Mor­gen was granted un­fet­tered ac­cess to Cobain’s ar­chives, in­clud­ing home movies, 200 hours of un­re­leased mu­sic and au­dio record­ings, 4,000 pages of writ­ings, and a stun­ning col­lec­tion of per­sonal art­work, and used it to cre­ate a por­trait of Cobain that’s more hu­man—and more tragic—than we pre­vi­ously un­der­stood. “Just when we re­al­ize how much more there was to him, it’s over,” Mor­gen says. “That’s the sad­ness of this ex­pe­ri­ence: This is the last of it.”

You tell a lot of Kurt’s story through his art­work. It’s amaz­ing how ver­sa­tile he was.

From the mo­ment he was able to hold a paint­brush, he was cre­at­ing. And he never stopped cre­at­ing. Un­like most artists who work in one or two dif­fer­ent me­dia, Kurt worked in mu­sic, spo­ken word, sculp­ture, paint­ing, mixed-me­dia col­lages, oral sound­scapes. He pretty much worked with any­thing he would get his hands on. His work is like an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

The film con­tains many home movies taken dur­ing Kurt’s de­cline into heroin ad­dic­tion. Did you worry it could be too much?

Over the past 20 years, there’s been a ro­man­ti­cism of Kurt’s heroin use, be­cause the pub­lic wasn’t con­fronted with the darker face of it. This film de­mys­ti­fies that image. But the ques­tion came up, would he want peo­ple to see this? My feel­ing was, we weren’t try­ing to put Kurt on a pedestal, and we weren’t try­ing to throw him on the ground and kick dirt on him. We were try­ing to look him in the eye.

This is the first time the Cobain fam­ily has par­tic­i­pated in a doc­u­men­tary. Why now?

Once Frances [Cobain’s daugh­ter with Court­ney Love] came on board, everybody wanted to par­tic­i­pate to sup­port her. Af­ter I screened the film for her the first time, we em­braced and she said, “Thank you; you just gave me two hours with my fa­ther that I never had.” My guess is that a lot of chil­dren whose par­ents com­mit sui­cide might tend to blame them­selves, so to a cer­tain ex­tent, the film might have a lib­er­at­ing ef­fect. What you re­al­ize is, Kurt’s prob­lems pre­dated fa­ther­hood and pre­dated Court­ney and pre­dated his heroin use and pre­dated fame.

Why do you think Kurt’s mys­tique re­mains so strong?

Kurt was able to ar­tic­u­late his feel­ings of angst and his spe­cific life ex­pe­ri­ences bet­ter than just about any­one of my gen­er­a­tion. But he was in the pub­lic eye for only a very brief pe­riod of time, be­gin­ning with the launch of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in ’91 and end­ing in April of ’94. And for a large part of those years, he was on re­treat. The pub­lic had very limited ac­cess to Kurt.

He hated giv­ing in­ter­views and dis­cour­aged re­porters from try­ing to un­der­stand him. Would he be an­noyed that we’re all still do­ing it?

It was an­noy­ing to him to have to ex­plain his work. But if no­body was ask­ing, he would have been equally trou­bled. That was part of Kurt’s chal­lenge in life. We came across sev­eral jour­nal en­tries that sug­gest an in­vi­ta­tion to ex­plore. One that we show in the film says, “When you wake up, please read my di­ary. Look through my things, and fig­ure me out.” I can’t help but think that if he didn’t want peo­ple to see his stuff, he might have dis­carded it.

MY FEEL­ING WAS, WE WEREN’T TRY­ING TO PUT KURT ON A PEDESTAL, AND WE WEREN’T TRY­ING TO THROW HIM ON THE GROUND AND KICK DIRT ON HIM.

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