City Paper is not for tourists
Kurt Cobain: About a Son is a soundtrack set to a movie. Director AJ Schnack took 25 hours’ worth of previously unreleased taped interviews between Cobain and journalist Michael Azerrad (author of Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana), whittled them down to 97 minutes, and added images to his audio. The result is an infuriating dichotomy: Hearing the late frontman talk candidly about his parents, his health problems, and Nirvana’s success is undeniably a riveting, uniquely intimate experience. But it’s difficult to get over the fact that you’re not watching him on-screen. Schnack chose to film random scenes (some directly related to the topic, such as high school kids when Cobain speaks of his teen years) and strangers (most of them simply looking into the camera), with drawings occasionally added. You hear the singer’s words, but your mind is too busy yelling, “Who the hell are these people?” to focus on what’s being said. The tactic does pay off, however, near the end of the film: Finally, we see stills of Cobain as he and Azerrad are ending their phone conversation. His casual “goodbye” accompanies his famous, doleful face, and the specialness of what you’ve just heard gives your gut a twist.