BOOK REVIEW: Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Based On The Acclaimed Documentary Film (2015)
Authors: Brett Morgen with Richard Bienstock
1/2 of a star
This is the accompanying coffee-table book to the most recent Kurt Cobain biopic of the same title, and that a film about Cobain has a coffee-table book should tell you all you need to know about it. But just in case you’re the kind of scum inclined to spend fifty bucks on a Nirvana conversation piece, let’s look closer.
Montage Of Heck, for all it was a portrait of the myth rather than the man, was glorious. Lavishly animated and assembled with intimate words from Cobain’s closest, it did exactly what it set out to do: paint a victim as a martyr, a sad little sensitive unappreciative jesus man as the godchild walking. It was an assault of image, sound and trigger; you could see it ripple through people briefly, as Cobain rose once again onto the tongues of your peers. It’s a powerful film. And a lie, yeah. But powerful nonetheless.
Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Based On The Acclaimed Documentary Film on the other hand, well. Straight off the bat you suspect that last sentence was part of the cover before the film was even released. Further suspicion comes in the form of the promotional blurb:
“… It is the ultimate book for fans of Nirvana, whose popularity continues to endure, and of Kurt, who remains a fascinating icon of popular culture…”
It appears the PR department never heard of either Nirvana or Cobain, raising further questions, but more importantly let’s recall that Kurt Cobain’s diaries were published in 2002. But no, this self-righteous spin-off is the ultimate book, yeah, I see it, suure.
Let that set the tone for this book. Cobain: Montage Of Heck is a wreck, a mismatched assembly of stills from the film interspersed with the interviews Morgen took – verbatim. Every clumsy word, edited with a heavy-hand into vague comprehension with ‘he [Kurt]’s and [explanatory fill-ins]. Worst of all, it pulls down the curtains on the film to a sad man with a crippling drug addiction, shuddering through their loved ones’ words with deliberate ignorance and manipulation. Take the man off a cross and he’s just a corpse. This book is a cadaver at best.
Best bit: The introduction by Morgen. Acknowledgement of Tobi Vail’s part of Cobain’s life, absent from the film.
Worst bit: High-res images of warped foetuses care of the artist. Interviews with Cobain’s first girlfriend Tracy Marander, who deserved better.
Richard Moore is easily moved by dead rockstars.
“Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Based On The Acclaimed Documentary Film” by Richard Moore. First published by Pelican Magazine volume 86 edition 7 page 37.