The HBO documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a personal favorite film of mine this year, and the #12 movie on our list of the best of 2015 so far. The Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne however, a personal friend of Cobain’s and Nirvana’s “before and after they were famous”, is not a fan.
Writing a review on The Talkhouse, where “Musicians Talk Music”, Osborne claimed Morgen’s film is “90 percent bullshit”, and that many of the stories and home movies used in the documentary, only add to the false myth making about Cobain. “That’s the one thing no one gets about Cobain,” Osborne writes. “He was a master of jerking your chain.”
One of the most compelling scenes in Morgen’s film involves is an animated sequence in which Cobain himself recites a story about taking advantage of a mentally retarded girl, then contemplating suicide. Osborne says Cobain’s own account never happened.
I know the whole “I tried to fuck a fat retard” story is complete bullshit. Not even an inkling of truth. That’s too good a story to have gone this long without me hearing about it, especially if, as he suggests, the girl’s father freaked out about it at the high school. In that small-town shit-hole, exciting news of that nature would have been common knowledge before the sun set. It never happened. And the trying-to-kill-himself-on-the-train-tracks story is bullshit as well. It never happened either. There it is, though, told in a recording of Kurt’s own voice so it must be true…right? Wrong.
Osborne also questions the accuracy of Cobain’s wife recounting in the documentary, Courtney Love, and chided Morgen for not checking her story.
A lot of what she says in this documentary doesn’t exactly jibe with things Kurt told me himself, but I suppose that’s not surprising when you consider history becomes elastic every time Courtney Love opens her mouth…
When Courtney speaks, the truth is certainly there, but God only knows where it begins and ends. In the 20 years since Kurt’s death, the undisputed facts of some of her stories seem to change almost hourly. I remain unconvinced in regards to her testimony, and I don’t think I’m alone.
I find it amusing that the filmmakers never bothered to fact-check simple stuff like this, and just took Kurt and Courtney at their word. That’s a bit risky when you’re supposed to be making a behind-the-scenes documentary — but not surprising considering that not a lot of what’s out there about Kurt is the truth anyway. But no one seems to care. Unfortunately, it matters very little what the facts are; what matters is what peoplebelieve. And when it comes to Cobain, most of what they believe is fabricated nonsense. Montage of Heck does nothing to counter that. With that in mind, it’s really hard to take any of this film seriously.
Morgen has not yet responded to Osborne’s claims, although Montage of Heck was made in accordance with Kurt’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, and also features interviews with Kurt’s high school girlfriend and his parents.
It also begs the question whether Osborne’s claim, if true, necessarily changes the quality or enjoyment of the film, which I’d argue still offers an incredible look into Cobain’s mind, whether or not his own telling is accurate.
The Amy Winehouse documentary Amy, which just premiered at Cannes, also came under fire for inaccuracies from Winehouse’s father.