How many people can there be, Nirvana fans or not, who don't know at least a part of the Kurt Cobain story by now? The troubled kid, the killer band, the fame, the ambivalence, the shotgun, the end? Brett Morgen's Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck tells this tale one more time, but in a sleek new way, without the usual documentary signposts. Drummer Dave Grohl simply appears on the scene, unheralded by date or name. Pat Smear arrives. Courtney Love barrels in. Scribbled on a note we see only a phone number for Geffen Records, which would become the band's big-time home. A resolute impressionism prevails.
What's really new about this powerful film, assembled over the course of eight years, is the way that it conjures Cobain's full presence—his conflicting dreams and resentments, loves and fears. He seems to stand (and leap and fall and crawl) before us, and it's a mesmerizing sight.