This weekend sees the release of Montage Of Heck, the breathtaking new experimental documentary about the life and times of the late, legendary Kurt Cobain. Eschewing traditional narrative format, filmmaker Brett Morgan instead creates a staggeringly intimate portrait of the troubled Nirvana frontman by cobbling together fragments of Cobain's work to retell his story in his own words.
With the full cooperation of Cobain's family, Morgan was granted access to the aggregate of the singer's personal and family archives, thus allowing him to utilize home movies, early tour footage, scrapbook drawings, photographs, and a host of other materials to create an expansive, multi-media scrapbook which spans the entire rocky road of Cobain's troubled life.
Though Montage Of Heck may be the only officially sanctioned documentary about Kurt Cobain, it's certainly not the first time the enigmatic Nirvana brand has crossed over into the cinematic realm. In fact, ever since the early '90s, filmmakers from the mainstream and the underground have found inspiration in the Seattle trio's nihilistic, deeply personal songs--either featuring, adapting, or outright ripping off one facet or another of the band's complex legacy. As such, let's take a look at some of Nirvana's biggest movie moments:
Cushman Sings Cobain (Jerry Maguire):
Although most of Nirvana's songs have dark undertones, this scene uses their wrenching ballad "Something In The Way" to comedic effect by depicting dullard beefcake Frank Cushman (Jerry O'Connell) mangling the tune during a meeting with his agent.
Smells Like Muppets (The Muppets):
In this 2011 reboot, the fuzzy freaks force an unwitting Jack Black to host their telethon before serenading him with a "barbershop quartet" version of Nirvana's biggest song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
Breeding Blowout (Shoot 'Em Up)
Director Michael Davis put one of Nirvana's chunkiest riffs to good use when he slammed "Breed" over the kick-ass opening shoot-out of this violent cult classic.
A Buzzy Beginning (Mad Love):
In keeping with its general Gen-X aesthetic, this 1995 romantic comedy opens up with a scene of awkward Matt Leland (Chris O'Donnell) scoping out some wave-runners to the tune of Nirvana's "Love Buzz", a single off their little-known first album "Bleach".
The Entirety of Last Days (2005):
While Gus Van Sant's weepy indie may not include any songs written by Kurt Cobain, it does manage to rip off his identity and plaster it onto half-hearted archetype Blake (Michael Pitt), before proceeding to follow the unsubtle stand-in during the days leading up to his suicide. If you're a real Nirvana fan, do yourself a favor and skip this bloated, disrespectful mess of a film.
Indeed, many films have gently paid homage to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but if you want to see a real, comprehensive portrait of one of the twentieth centuries greatest artistic voices, make sure to check out the superb Kurt Cobain: A Montage Of Heck, now playing in select theaters and premiering May 2nd on HBO.