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Kurt Cobain - About a Son DVD (Cover Artwork)

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain: About a Son DVDAbout a Son DVD (2008)
Shout Factory / Sidetrack Films

Reviewer Rating: 4


Contributed by: Matt_WhelihanMatt Whelihan
(others by this writer | submit your own)

In the 7th grade I must have read Michael Azerrad's book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana three or four times. First it was a borrowed copy from a friend's older brother, and then I had my own coveted little copy. This was at the height of my Nirvana obsession, so while the rest of my classmate.
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In the 7th grade I must have read Michael Azerrad's book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana three or four times. First it was a borrowed copy from a friend's older brother, and then I had my own coveted little copy. This was at the height of my Nirvana obsession, so while the rest of my classmates top priorities were the new Foxy Brown single and how many goals Eric Lindros had scored the night before, I would be doodling the Seattle trio's simple logo on folders and pondering whether I should get a flannel shirt or not.

At the time my massive CD collection consisted of discs from Nirvana, Green Day, the Smashing Pumpkins, Everclear and Silverchair, yet none of those other bands' frontmen spoke to me in the way Kurt Cobain did. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he had already been dead for a couple of years at this point, or that MTV and the music press were already establishing him as a creative genius and cultural revolutionist, but he just seemed more mythical, more worthy of pedestal placement, more of an outcast king, and Michael Azerrad's book only deepened my devotion.

It was through Kurt Cobain's descriptions of his school days that I began to feel like an empathetic soul, one that could condemn the jocks (ironic considering I was playing on a baseball and soccer team at the time), use music as an escape from the world (again humorous considering my tumult-free upbringing) and dream about being in a successful band. His bitterness and cynicism also hit close to home as I was slowly, but surely, adopting my own brand of teenage angst between episodes of "X-Men" and lengthy sessions of playing Golden Eye on N64.

Maybe a couple years later I did discover Blink-182, MxPx, and the entire Epi-Fat rosters and declare myself a punk, but I've never fully lost interest in the mystique of Kurt Cobain. So when I heard about the concept behind Kurt Cobain About a Son, I was interested. Here were all those tapes Azerrad had recorded during night-long chat sessions with Cobain being played over a series of shots from Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle. While the concept may not exactly sound complicated or multifaceted, the result is an often strikingly artistic film, one that conveys a range of emotions in its non-traditional execution.

Director AJ Schnack seems to have carefully chosen the imagery here (a fact confirmed in the extras) as he moves from the logging mills and run-down homes of Aberdeen to the colorful, bohemian outpost of Olympia and finally to the dichotomous Seattle, where wooded suburbs meet gritty, major city streets. Along the way he visits numerous locations from Cobain's life, such as his high school, an apartment he shared with Dave Grohl and a hotel where he cleaned fireplaces, helping to provide not only visual accompaniment to the conversations heard in the film but also to the moods and themes found in the music of Nirvana.

Schnack also seems diligent in his selection of audio. Azerrad claims to have had about 25 hours worth of recordings and with the film's running time just breaking two hours it is obvious major cuts had to be made. What Schnack does leave is a chronological journey through Cobain's life that takes him from his depressed childhood to his lazy years of artistic development where he either lived on couches or on a girlfriend's dime and finally to his massive success, drug issues, and subsequent battles with the media.

When Cobain and Azerrad aren't speaking, the film's soundtrack consists of songs from bands and artists that influenced Cobain such as the Butthole Surfers, Leadbelly, the Vaselines and the Melvins as well as some original music from Steve Fisk and Ben Gibbard (credited here under the very soundtrack-scoring moniker of Benjamin Gibbard). These sounds, much like the images, provide context for Cobain's musings. Whether he's angrily discussing journalists and songwriting credit or recalling how he used to replace his mom's weed with oregano and Nirvana's first show, the music imparts an appropriate emotional resonance.

As I've already mentioned, I still maintain a great deal of respect for Kurt Cobain and his music, and while I enjoy the re-contextualization of his life that About a Son provides, my only complaint would be that the film failed to generate any sort of new ties between me and the deceased artist. This may be a wholly personal issue, but it's just that the correlation between his perpetual animosity and my 7th grade growing pains were clear enough upon reading Azerrad's book, whereas after watching the film all I could think was that Cobain was an older man at the time of those interviews than I am now, making some of his violent revenge comments and 'fuck the world' laments seem strangely regressed for an intelligent adult.

Sure, not every comment or story in the film sounds like it is coming from the perspective of some teenage curmudgeon, and yes, I understand that Cobain was under intense media scrutiny at the time these interviews were conducted, but part of him just seems to have never grown up. Maybe this is what ignited the fiery heart of Nirvana, or maybe this is what appealed (and still appeals) to so many people about Cobain, or maybe, as many writers, including Azerrad, suggest, his demeanor doesn't necessarily have to do with being immature or socially stunted, but is merely a premeditated disposition he adopted to provide an image that would make for an enigmatic figure, interesting interviews, and now, an intriguing film.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Bipedcasserole (April 11, 2008)

poop on this. poop.

Godfather (April 10, 2008)

i finally saw this 8/10....pretty damn original and did an amazing job showing you who kurt was, as opposed to what others thought of him....which i liked

oh and uh, rockets in the stack

sumwon (April 9, 2008)

My favorite is the Facility, what with all the wacky shit you can do with the Magnum.

LeightonESmith (April 9, 2008)

I'm with the dude who said Goldeneye, pistols, license to kill.
I'd like to add a request for paintball and we'll duel in Military Archives.....

sumwon (April 8, 2008)

No way, Goldeneye is far better than PD. Multiplayer Goldeneye on LTK Pistols is the only video game I like.

scorpiondeathlock (April 8, 2008)

perfect dark>goldeneye

mashole (April 8, 2008)

scores for goldeneye THE best multiplayer game everrrr

Hey_Asshole (April 7, 2008)

we'd have a riot doing heroin
take a needle and stick it in

flowerfeeder (April 7, 2008)

I'm a Pennywise fan myself, but they didn't exactly reinvent the wheel. Let's not get carried away.

IAmJetBlack (April 6, 2008)

LMAO

"I almost think that Pennywise deserve more recognition. They're actually written an original song....."

The second second sentence should end, "...and then subsequently ripped themselves off for the next decade and a half."

BarleyPat (April 6, 2008)

Why the fuck do people have to be so extreme about Kurt and Nirvana? They either think he's god or they hate his guts. Even if you don't like his music, you have to respect the fact that he did change the face of rock radio and the industry to help pave the way for the (pseudo)punk bands that got many people on here into alot of the music they listen to now. Of course, they also share the blame for Korny, Limp Dicknut, Creed, and even the guyliner kiddie punk. But most people under 30 were affected in their exposure to rock music in its various forms by the impact that Nirvana had. In short: No, he's not God. But he was important and made a huge impact, love him or hate him.

youwinalemon (April 6, 2008)

Words cannot express how much fuck Goldeneye.

Score's for Star Fox 64.

jacknife737 (April 6, 2008)

"or maybe Nirvana and Cobain are the most overrated pieces of shit of all time. case closed."

Well, i can't see how anyone can poke holes in that elaborate argument.

thomas7155 (April 6, 2008)

Look, I don't harbor a hatred of Nirvana. I just don't see how they're so great.They killed Hair metal. good for them. But they sound like everyone else. Pixies, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Led Zepplin, etc. So when people cream themselves over generic "alternative" rock, it really annoys me. I almost think that Pennywise deserve more recognition. They're actually written an original song, and they've inspired people to do more than wear plaid shirts and call themselves "rock experts".

Jesus_H_Christ (April 6, 2008)

HonestAbe....

go fuck yourself?

Oh, and stop taking internet comments so damn seriously.

Badger_Legion (April 5, 2008)

Calling a band overrated is pretentious as fuck. It assumes that your taste in music (which is completely subjective) is superior to the fans of that band.

Dudley_Shale (April 5, 2008)

They suck, and are overrated. How is an opinion asinine, when the music was completley boring, and bland. Fuck Nirvana.

cheesetits (April 5, 2008)

The people that say Nirvana is overrated need a reawakening in their grasp of music. You don't know shit, despite what your immature and close minded mindset on music might tell you. By the way, I just laughed at the mention of Pennywise. I don't mind them, don't get me wrong, but if that is your response, you need to get that label of "tool" removed off your face. I don't think Nirvana is the greatest band ever, but to say they suck and are overrated are asinine things to say.

msldyth43 (April 5, 2008)

"As far as I'm concerned anyone into any current variation of rock music that doesn't respect Nirvana doesn't know jack."

...or maybe Nirvana and Cobain are the most overrated pieces of shit of all time. case closed.

thomas7155 (April 5, 2008)

Screw this stupid crap. Review Pennywise and Good riddance records!!

defianceohioequalslove (April 5, 2008)

Coming from a person that thinks the majority of Nirvana can be summed up as "meh", and also really didn't care much about Cobain's life, this is actually pretty damn good. I can totally see how fans of Nirvana/Cobain would love this.

almost_dead (April 4, 2008)

i too was really into Nirvana in highschool in 1988 when i picked up the Bleach LP. i guess it's just a phase that those of us born in early 1970s all went through... oh s__t ... i got that wrong... when i was in high school no one knew who the hell nirvana were but me! Mudhoney was actually more well known at that point. i bought the Green Day 1,000 hours on lookout throught mailorder and boy was disappointed! i much preferred Crimpshrine and Plaid Retina, but that was just me. and i agree with briancampbell, Nirvana'a Bleach album was TOTALLY psuedo-hippie bullshit~~!! when i heard songs like School, swap meet, floyd the barber i was totally transported back to 1960 and reminded of songs like "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)"!!

briancampbell (April 4, 2008)

"Milk It" is the only thing worth while in the Nirvana catalog. Everything else is just whiny, psuedo-hippie bullshit.

clamum (April 4, 2008)

"Out of curiosity, how old are you reviewer? I'm 25 and this seriously sounds like my life story. Obsessing with Nirvana throughout junior high amidst all the alternative rock wonders of the mid 90's and then transitioning into punk rock in high school. Is that common for us born in the early 80's?

As for Nirvana...It's truely a shame that Kurt Cobain only left us with 3 proper albums and less than 100 recorded songs(not counting the 500 re-recordings). As far as I'm concerned anyone into any current variation of rock music that doesn't respect Nirvana doesn't know jack.

I've gotta check this movie out."

I'm 25 and agree with everything you've said, hahaha. I got into Nirvana in junior high and they were almost the only band I listened to. Somewhere in sophomore year of high school I got into punk and have been into it ever since. I still have a place of Nirvana though, much respect.

"As far as I'm concerned anyone into any current variation of rock music that doesn't respect Nirvana doesn't know jack."

Quoted for mother fucking truth.

matt_whelihan (April 4, 2008)

Out of curiosity, how old are you reviewer?

A few months from 25.

Godfather (April 4, 2008)

i need to see this

DarrenMcLeod (April 4, 2008)

Score's for Goldeneye on N64, and for the hype surrounding Lindros when he came into the NHL.

inagreendase (April 4, 2008)

In Utero > Nevermind

Is this really disputed that often?

iruineverything (April 4, 2008)

Out of curiosity, how old are you reviewer? I'm 25 and this seriously sounds like my life story. Obsessing with Nirvana throughout junior high amidst all the alternative rock wonders of the mid 90's and then transitioning into punk rock in high school. Is that common for us born in the early 80's?

As for Nirvana...It's truely a shame that Kurt Cobain only left us with 3 proper albums and less than 100 recorded songs(not counting the 500 re-recordings). As far as I'm concerned anyone into any current variation of rock music that doesn't respect Nirvana doesn't know jack.

I've gotta check this movie out.

sugarfull (April 4, 2008)

Uh, oh...comment board fight!!

HonestAbe (April 4, 2008)

1 Amebix is one of the few crust bands that have talent.

2 White Stripes > The Hives

3 "'Hey there Delilah' is reason alone to crucify this band."

"Thank you for that, sir. I couldn't agree more. Let's get some crosses. I already have the nails."

4 This band is like a lame version of the Locust without said band's amusing lyrics and artwork.

my conclusion is that you are a fucking tool mr. jesus h christ

Jesus_H_Christ (April 4, 2008)

In Utero > Nevermind

HonestAbe (April 4, 2008)

I love Nrvana for nothing more than the fact that I grew up in the 90's, and I think their songs are badass.

As far as "Cobain being God" or whatever, I don't know if I agree with that, but I think the fact that he's dead definitly helps that whole idea out a bit.

The reason that I do believe that Nirvana is such an important band is that they wrote real honest songs at a time when fluffy pop songs about complete bullshit were all that was being played on the radio.

In came a band with the songwriting skills to incorporate poppy hooks into real songs about a real person that other people could relate to.

Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know but that's the way I see it

HonestAbe (April 4, 2008)

Words cannot express how much fuck this guy

Why? Explain please

SydBarrett420 (April 4, 2008)

Is this as bad as the Gus Van Zant "biopic" from a few years back?

moneenerd (April 4, 2008)

i could only sit through 30 minutes of this as it is pretentious as fuck. the whole "cobain is God" thing is played out. this is basically a movie of different shots of cobain's hometown backed by random samples of interviews he did when he was alive. its boring and might have worked if it wasn't so long and dreary.

holy_balls (April 4, 2008)

Words cannot express how much fuck this guy

nocigar (April 4, 2008)

this is seriously amazing.

cheesetits (April 4, 2008)

This sounds interesting. As a sidenote, Aberdeen is probably the eeriest city I have ever been in. Partly it's trying to imagine Kurt hanging out there, and partly because it's a ghost town and I never see people walking around, and I'm not alone in this observation. And I've never been able to find out, but did the sign outside the city "Come As You Are" exist before the song or is that where the song came from?

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