Kurt and Courtney
1998, NR, 99 min. Directed by Nick Broomfield. Starring Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 10, 1998
Alas, despite the oceans of hype generated by Sundance's last-minute yanking of this film from its January lineup, Brit Broomfield's scathing documentary about the various conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Seattle's golden child, Kurt Cobain, is adrift in a sea of wild speculation and paranoid rantings. That's not to say it isn't wildly entertaining -- it is -- but you just might want to take everything here with a grain of saltpeter. Broomfield, a master of in-your-face interviewing (he sometimes comes across as D.A. Pennebaker's evil twin), has charted similar courses before, notably in Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam and Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, but this time out the objects of his affliction are pop-culture icons on a much grander scale. Hours after Kurt Cobain's shotgun-disfigured corpse was discovered in April 1994, the conspiracy theories began to fly fast and furious, and they're still up there, messing with not only the heads of everyone in Seattle, but also Nirvana and Hole fans the world over. Broomfield, sound gear slung across his shoulders, gamely dives head-first into the muck and rakes for all he's worth. What he finds isn't of much substance, but it certainly makes for some interesting observations, not the least of which is that Courtney Love appears to be one of the world's most accomplished control freaks. No surprise there, but Broomfield uncovers harrowing, tape-recorded messages left on various journalists' answering machines by Ms. Love that play right into the fires of paranoia (there's one from Kurt, too, but he sounds so messed up that it's hard to take his threats seriously). Did Love have Cobain killed in an effort to secure his fortune before a possible divorce? That's the rumor making the rounds in Kurt and Courtney, and Broomfield interviews everyone from Love's estranged father (“I think she did it”) to a Los Angeles private eye hired to sort through the wreckage of the couple's faltering marriage (“You bet she did it”). Also along for the ride are entertaining, anti-Courtney tirades from Rozz Rezebek, with whom Love shared a volatile relationship pre-Cobain, and assorted druggie hangers-on, who vouchsafe for Cobain's winsome, naïve innocence and Love's explosive temper. Of course, the bottom line is, “Did she or didn't she?” and Broomfield's film fails to offer much support either way. It's all backyard gossip with nary a shred of solid proof. The Seattle County Coroner's office long ago ruled Cobain's death a suicide, and that official pronouncement stands to this day. Kurt and Courtney is a goldmine for Cobain fanatics -- recordings of a two-year-old Cobain singing giddily, home-movie footage galore, and lots of dreary Seattle locations abound -- but as for clearing up the mystery (if there is any mystery), there's nothing new to be found.