Produced/Directed by: Nick Broomfield
Total Running Time: 93 Minutes
Releases: VHS and DVD
Released: 10/98 (VHS), ??/01 (DVD)
Nick Broomfield, a British film maker, travels around the States to investigate the theory that Cobain was murdered through interviews with people such as Tom Grant, El Duce, Cobain's Aunt Mari and others.
Below you will find a scene-by-scene summary and a review of this film.
A Scene by Scene Guide
Scene 1: The opening scene is shot of the infamous 'Seattle Times' photograph of Kurt lying dead on the floor of the greenhouse. This is followed by the same news footage that was shown many times, with a voice over by Broomfield, introducing the idea that many have found it hard to accept he committed suicide, and a brief clip of 12/13/93 Pier 48, Seattle, WA soundcheck (no sound).
Scene 2: It then moves to an excerpt of the 'Much Music Interview' with Kurt by the Seattle waterfront in August 1993. Kurt talks about buying medical supplies from a store in Minneapolis.
Scene 3: An interview with Kurt's Aunt Mary and some brief footage of Kurt's baby tapes. Mary briefly plays part of Kurt's first demo recorded when he was 15. All we hear are Kurt's brief drum intro played on a suitcase with spoons and a couple of unintelligible words from Kurt. Broomfield explains that he was forced to remove it due to pressure from Love's lawyers.
Scene 4: There is then an interview with Lamont Schillinger. Who talks about his introduction to Kurt and gives a brief history of Kurt's stay. The most interesting thing he says is that during the year Kurt stayed his parents didn't get in touch once.
Scene 5: Shots of the Aberdeen bridge where Kurt was rumoured to have slept when he was homeless. Graffiti shows dedications to Kurt, one of which reads "Gone, but not forgotten". Broomfield notes that locals told him that when MTV filmed there they painted over such graffiti and remove the stray syringes.
Scene 6: Kurt at the family Christmas party in 1987. Kurt is wearing a leather jacket and baseball cap backwards and is accompanied by then girlfriend Tracy Marander.
Scene 7: Then there is and interview with Tracy who shows Broomfield some of Kurt's art including some of Kurt's well documented clay dolls, these look rather harmless and bear a close resemblance to a child's doll. She has a self-portrait by Kurt on her wall. Kurt paints himself as a thin bright white skeleton with long arms and a long misshapen neck and a small head that appears to be staring vacantly to its left. The skeleton has a background of blue and green. Tracy explains that Kurt way very insecure about his weight and says that Kurt often used to wear many clothes on top of each other. "A pair or 2 of long johns and a pair of ripped jeans on top of it, plus a couple of T-shirts, a sweatshirt, a flannel shirt and a jacket." The second painting is of a baby that seems to be painted mostly in grey with some flesh tone patches on it. It is surrounded by what appears to be long pieces of white coral growing in from the outside of the picture and what appears to be a cluster of purple berries placed if front of it. It is a very haunting and beautiful piece of work. Tracy says Kurt wasn't obsessed with foetuses but liked to use them in his art. Tracy also says that Kurt worked as a janitor in the doctors office where Kurt got the pictures of the diseased vaginas used for the collage on the Nevermind insert. Tracy says Kurt had a good sense of humour, liked to play jokes and cook a lot and didn't like tidying up. There are some still photos of Kurt shown some of which have featured in biographies on the band. Broomfield announces that he intended to play 'About A Girl' over the stills (Tracy having explained that Michael Azerrad told her that Kurt said the song was written about her), but that he had been unable to get licensing for use of any Nirvana's songs (only clips of Nirvana's 1991 performance on the British chart show, Top of the Pops, appear throughout the film).
Scene 8: Interview with Alice Wheeler. Alice says that Kurt had handlers who tried to keep him from his friends. Alice describes a journey taken with Kurt in a limo and says that Kurt was 'embarrassed' by the fact he was travelling in a limo. There are then some still photos of Kurt and Courtney taken at a Christmas party in 1993.
Scene 9: Kurt being interviewed at the Seattle waterfront in August 93. This time Kurt is talking about becoming a husband and father.
Scene 10: Interview with Hank Harrison. Harrison shows Broomfield the book he wrote about Kurt and states that Kurt was murdered. Hank states that Kurt was going to get a divorce and change his will. Hank reads a poem written by Courtney called 'Future Date' featured in his book 'Who Killed Kurt Cobain'. Future Date was written in Ireland in 1980 and he said that she had discarded by a fireplace: "I love you forever I am going to be your wife. I am going to keep you around for the rest of my life. I finally got all these flies off of me and now I can see a future date. A future date right over the horizon. Right on the tip of your tongue. I'll destroy anyone in my way I'll kill every lousy lay. Cause I got my eye on a future date". Hank thinks that this shows how ruthless Courtney is and how ambitious she was. He says she has a 'deranged thinking process' and calls her 'extraordinarily violent' and says that Courtney sent him a letter saying she stabbed a fellow pupil in a playground.
Scene 11: Interview with Courtney on the 'Today' show. Courtney storms off when she is asked about drugs and the heroin scenes in The People Versus Larry Flynt saying she feels uncomfortable with the demographic of the show.
Scene 12: Roz Rezabeck (formerly of the band 'Theatre of Sheep'), one of Courtney's old boyfriends, is interviewed in his home and talks about meeting Courtney and shows a box of Courtney's stuff and quotes from one of Courtney's journals where Courtney writes of how she will become famous: "Gig locally tons, stop working at a job, be financed, get a deal with the new connections and the old ones, tour with furs and REM, make a record, movie comes out". He states she has a list where she says "become friends with Michael Stipe". And then talks disparagingly about his sex life with Courtney. He is apparently upset that Courtney belittled him in the press and gives a lengthy harangue about Courtney and accuses him of "stealing his career" and "forcing him to become famous" and she had an "agenda" for him. He alleges that if he had stayed with her he would have "ended up like Kurt".
Scene 13: Broomfield then interviews a mysterious woman called Amy. She has shoulder length brown hair, bright red lipstick and strangely not unlike Courtney. She says that Kurt and Courtney used to go to her house to shoot up. Amy said she would send photos of her shooting up with Kurt and Courtney. She then takes the band to a club where Kurt played in 1989 and shows some graffiti that Kurt made signing his name Curt Cobain.
Scene 14: Nick talking about financing the film and the difficulties he had and states the head of 'MTV' called the film's financiers to stop the film being made.
Scene 15: Tom Grant Interview introducing the case for Kurt having been murdered. He says little of any real interest.
Scene 16: Hank Harrison being interviewed again. This time he talks about Kurt's suicide attempt in Rome and states Courtney was having an affair with Billy Corgan in London on Kurt's birthday.
Scene 17: Dylan Carlson interview. Dylan looks very different from the photos of him circa 1991. He looks dishevelled and his forehead is covered with many strange blemishes. He answers questions slowly and slurs his speech. Dylan says that Kurt didn't say anything to him about a divorce. Dylan says that Kurt and Courtney tried to avoid letting each other know they were taking drugs and said if he thought Kurt was killed he would kill the person in question.
Scene 18: Broomfield plays a tape of Tom Grant and Dylan Carlson searching for Kurt in his house on April 7th 1994 at 2 am. They did not discover his body as they did not check the greenhouse. Grant in part blamed Dylan for not telling him about it.
Scene 19: One of the sillier segments of the film where Nick Broomfield talks to two prospective paparazzi cameramen Al and Jack and put Nick in touch with El Duce.
Scene 20: The Mentors promo of the song 'Sex Slave'. A really awful, awful piece of late 80's sleaze rock that is one of the worst songs you are ever likely to hear (yes THAT bad).
Scene 21: Broomfield is introduced by a 40 something guy with dreads (allegedly Divine Brown's pimp) to El Duce. El Duce is a short, fat, bald man with a wispy beard, wearing a white vest who appears to be in his late 40's early 50's (we find out later he is actually only 35). El Duce wears claims that Courtney paid him $50,000 to kill Kurt and "make it look like a suicide". He also claims to have passed a lie detector test.
Scene 22: Al and Jack stalking Courtney. The battery apparently runs out and all we see is one of them using a vending machine.
Scene 23: Courtney being interviewed at the Oscars by some sycophantic interviewer.
Scene 24: Broomfield returns to Aunt Mary's. She tells Broomfield of a song she saw lying around once called 'Seaside Suicide'. She states that she didn't think Kurt had recorded the song but having read Kurt's lyric sheet, she got the impression that Kurt had tried suicide before. She plays some more of Kurt's baby tapes. It is the part where Kurt says "Boddah" over and over. She refuses to accept that Kurt was murdered.
Scene 25: Tom Grant meeting in the car park of the Westwood Golf Club. He states that Kurt was too high on heroin to operate the shotgun and kill himself. Broomfield then asked an expert about Tom Grant's allegations and who informs him that this statement is incorrect. Broomfield gives the news that El Duce was killed by a train. It is thought that this occurred accidentally though some suspect murder in order to silence him. Broomfield states that he was becoming a part of the conspiracy.
Scene 26: They visit Amy again. She says she will get the photos for him. They never arrive.
Scene 27: They visit Hank Harrison for the third time. He says that he got Pit Bulls to discipline Courtney. He says that he gave her "tough love". He tries to explain his relationship with Courtney Love. He seems more interested in furthering his own celebrity than anything else. He refers to the feud as family feud of great public interest and states that he hoped the public followed it. At one point he turns to the camera and delivers a length incoherent rant "keep on bad rapping me or I'll still keep kicking your arse... as I know how she thinks... I know what her next thought would be".
Scene 28: Broomfield meets a woman named Chelsea who introduces Broomfield to one of Frances' nannies. She describes an incident the nanny related to her where Kurt comes back from the house after a long absence and upon his arrival Frances who usually greeted Kurt happily instead hugs the nanny she said that Kurt said "my own daughter doesn't even know me anymore". She says the nanny is frightened of Courtney.
Scene 29: Interview with Frances' Nanny. The Nanny says there was "way too much will talk" when she was working there. She says that Courtney was talking at length about Kurt's will in the last month. She looks young and very depressed and withdrawn. She stares intensely and blankly at the camera. She describes Kurt as caring but that Courtney "totally controlled him". When asked what Kurt wanted she said 'to get away from Courtney' and says 'he didn't have a way' for him to get away.
Scene 30: Broomfield on the telephone talking discussing finance for the film. He reports that part of the funding has been withdrawn due to pressures from MTV possibly induced by Courtney.
Scene 31: They show a letter addressed to Rob Spillman at Vanity Fair apparently written by Kurt: "RE: Fuckers. You are so dumb. Oh my god! Your so punk. NEVER EVER EVER EVER mention my name in your evil fucking magazine ever again until Lynn Hirshberg is strung up by her fucking toes and Ms Ksemiak if you want to keep referring to my wife as "nutty" and "nuttier than nuttier" why don't you just put that in your press release instead of telling it to our actual friends in the media. Fuck you grunge it up Reagan assholes Kurdt Kobain". Fuck you is written repeatedly around the edges of the letter.
Scene 32: Alice Wheeler being interviewed again. Alice says Courtney's lawyers interviewed at length 70 of Kurt's old friends at great expense to find out what they knew about him. She viewed this as a veiled threat to keep quiet.
Scene 33: They play one of the Courtney sections of the Victoria Clarke tapes. Unsurprisingly they play the aggressive part.
Scene 34: Victoria Clarke being interviewed. Victoria claims that Courtney grabbed her and attacked her with a glass and dragged her by her hair along the floor.
Scene 35: Kurt's section of the Victoria Clarke tapes. Kurt's voice sounds extremely strained; his voice is almost unrecognisable. He is angry and very upset and makes a number of very unpleasant threats towards Victoria.
Scene 36: The film segues back to Victoria Clarke. Victoria says she was so worried she moved 3000 miles away and said she thought they were serious.
Scene 37: ACLU awards dinner where Courtney is special guest presenting the torch of freedom award.
Scene 38: Al and Jack interview Courtney about her band they chickened out of saying anything of note to Courtney they were "overwhelmed by her beauty".
Scene 39: Broomfield then briefly interviews Courtney. He asks her about the ACLU and threatening journalists. Courtney walks off placing an invitation over her ear to signify in a rather childish and churlish manner that she was no longer listening to him.
Scene 40: Courtney giving a speech to the ACLU about anti-censorship.
Scene 41: Broomfield climbs up to the speakers platform and asks why Courtney Love was chosen to speak but is shouted down by the president of the ACLU and told to fuck off by a security guard.
Scene 42: Aunt Mary is shown again this time she is talking to schoolchildren about drugs addiction and plays a song dedicated to Kurt entitled 'Let The Sunshine In'.
Scene 43: They finish the movie with some more footage of the Christmas '87 video. Kurt is sitting in the back garden while some kids play by him. A little blonde haired girl comes up to talk to him and Kurt is seen staring kindly at her.
A Critical Analysis by Matt Seward
Kurt and Courtney is a film where despite the hype and protestations about the restrictions on free speech, very little actually happens. Broomfield sees himself as an outsider looking in a soft-spoken Englishman dealing with all these 'crazy' Americans trying to reach the truth. You get the feeling that rather than get to the truth he wants to show you the disease at the heart of celebrity, the idea that there is a sinister seedy side behind Kurt, that he walked in a shadowy world of drugs.
Though Broomfield professes to be showing the truth what actually occurs is the illustration of many of the lies. Despite the hype he speaks to very few people connected in any way with Kurt. Amy, the woman with apparent pictures of Kurt shooting up seems an obvious fraud, which even a novice filmmaker that Broomfield is far from being would have spotted. Amy is shown showing clear signs of lying. She stares around the room, avoiding eye contact, she embellishes her stories by revealing little pieces of non essential information such as her little brother was coming home from school in an attempt to add validity to her claims. This type of behaviour is commonly used when lying to deflect the questioner from considering the central question, which is why would she leave pictures of her shooting heroin at her parents house? It is quite simply an absurd waste of screen time.
Broomfield's choices for interview subjects doesn't really improve. El Duce the barely believable cartoon villain also comes off bad in this film. He seems the sort of person you often find on documentaries that shouts a lot and will say anything if it will obtain greater screen time for himself and in his case publicity for his lousy band. Al and Jack are another case in point there seems no need for them to be there they do not advance the story at all and are given much more camera time than they deserve.
Hank Harrison who appears on 3 separate occasions in the film however is an interesting character. Upon meeting Broomfield he instantly gets a copy of his new book and places it in front of the camera and then proceeds to tilt it to take the glare off the cover, unbeknownst to him that very moment giving away his reason for being there. Harrison seems to be angry for no particular reason and despite some fairly unpleasant outbursts actually says little of any note when despite his angry tone of voice and hand gestures. You can see if choose to stare him in the face, a man of bitterness who has a daughter that has succeeded him and he now seems determined to usurp her. He even states at one point that it is his desire that they should be famous as a disputing father and daughter.
Roz, another of the long list of unpleasant individuals is another interesting choice since he really has nothing to do with Kurt. He seems to be there to have a go at Courtney in the most unpleasant way possible. He talks about her in bed saying she knew how to get a guys kinks and act it out. Thereby showing a lack of trustworthiness and an unpleasant cruel streak in his desire to humiliate a person at their most vulnerable point. He also says that Courtney would have made him become just like Kurt, which judging by the music from his band that was played was laughable.
The film however does have some good points. Tracy Marander is touching in her remembrances about Kurt and the home video footage of Kurt at a Christmas party although only very brief is a poignant illustration of Kurt in his younger days and the film is worth owning for this alone.
Overall don't believe the hype, this film is not a glaring expose into the seedy underworld beneath Nirvana, nor is it a powerful expression of an individuals right to free speech. It is in truth, sadly just another one of the sad line of characters portrayed in the film itself, another person trying to grab their fifteen minutes of fame and make an easy buck out of a sad story.