Kurt Cobain: About A Son AJ Schnack

The biggest selling point of About A Son is that it is effectively a portrait of Kurt Cobain narrated by Kurt Cobain himself. Culled from nearly 30 hours of audiotape interviews conducted by fancy music journalist Michael Azerrad for his 1993 book, Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana, the film manages to dispense with the usual shlocky "and then there was grunge” narration by literally going straight to the source. Although the interviews with Cobain are assembled chronologically, Nirvana groupies looking for another documentary on their dead boyfriend should be warned that this film is nothing if not experimental. Shot entirely on location in the three Washington cities where Cobain spent his life (Aberdeen, Olympia and Seattle), there is zero footage of the band or the man or anyone remotely involved in their successes. Even the music is missing. Instead, there are static shots of logging mills, random townies and dismal cityscapes interspersed with weird illustrations of nothing in particular, all with the slightly pretentious intent of lending a particular mood to whatever it is that Cobain is speaking of at the time. Given the fluctuating quality of the audiotapes (they were never intended for anything beyond transcription) and the incongruous visuals, About A Son is an easy film to give up on. More so if you think Cobain is full of shit. But somehow, about halfway through, the weird pace and awkward images become hypnotic. Truthfully, this movie should be awful but instead it locks you into a 90-minute trance. Cobain is engaging and often amusing in his storytelling and the ominous nature of some of his anecdotes is particularly telling. Though not for everyone, About A Son is surprisingly rewarding for those with more than a passing interest in the subject matter. This is about as non-exploitative as Nirvana docs get. (Sidetrack)