I was 17 years’ old – almost 18 – when I first heard Nirvana. It was late January, 1993, and my parents had left me with family friends after our 6-week holiday in Kowie, so that they could deliver me to varsity when it opened, some days later. My parents had to go back up-country to work. They had been friends with the family since they’d been at varsity together. The same varsity I was about to start at, in that small, dusty, lovely town.
One of the hot afternoons while I was there, their eldest son, Greg, and I were sitting in their lounge listening to music, and he played me Nirvana. I was an instant fan. It was at their height, and Nevermind became part of the soundtrack of my first, heady year at university. The first chords of Smells Like Teen Spirit still whisk me back to dark nights throwing ourselves about in the Stuyvie-smoke-Black Label-soaked air of that wonderful, dingy, sweaty cave that was The Vic.
It was these fabulous memories that has had me so excited to see Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, which finally arrived with the Encounters Film Festival last week. It’s loud, it’s in-your-face, it’s hectic and hard to watch and beautiful. I loved that it skipped out on the glorifying or godifying of Kurt, instead showing his fragility and his incredible artistry. The man didn’t stop creating.
With only family, the band, and his girlfriend and wife (that Courtney makes me uncomfortable, still. It’s like she’s balancing on a knife’s edge of crazy, all. the. time.) saying their bits, it felt truthful. It was harrowing. The man was an excrutiatingly beautiful mess of chaos. The hatred of the spotlight, the desperation to survive doing what he loved, the impossible toss-up of needing acknowledgement and hating everyone looking at him. I wanted to reach into the screen and hug him. Okay, I admit, I’d do more than hug him, but you get what I’m saying.
If you loved Nirvana, go see it. If you were being a disenchanted youth in the 90’s, go and see it. If you want to see pure, unadulterated, fucked-up, exquisite, untamed grunge rock, go and see it.
Kurt Cobain was a musical genius. And so, so, very beautifully tragic.