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Kurt Cobain - About a Son

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Kurt Cobain was deeply suspicious of journalists, but he trusted Rolling Stone's Michael Azerrad enough to give him unprecedented access during the writing of the book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Consisting entirely of Cobain's never-before-heard musings and recollections recorded by Azerrad and laid on top of newly shot footage of the places that he lived, Kurt Cobain: About A Son offers an intimate portrait of the rocker's troubled formative years and meteoric rise to stardom. The result is the story of one of rock's greatest icons as it's never been told before.

DVD Bonus Features:
Additional audio from the Kurt Cobain interviews
Behind-the-scenes featurette


Following in the deeply idiosyncratic footsteps of Last Days, About a Son plays more like autobiography than documentary. Gus Van Sant's feature extrapolates moments from the life of Kurt Cobain (with Michael Pitt as a musician named Blake), while A.J. Schnack’s non-fiction film adheres closer to the facts, but advances a more radical Koyaanisqatsi-like approach. First off, Cobain supplies the narration, but the filmmaker avoids pictures of the alternative icon until the end. (He culled the voice-over from interviews conducted by author Michael Azerrad for Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana.) Beyond-the-grave narration isn't a new concept--see Tupac: Resurrection--but Schnack (Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns) ups the ante by excluding talking heads, concert footage, and other staples of the genre. Instead, he uses still and time-lapse photography to explore Cobain's Northwest, i.e. Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle. The artist's unguarded reflections create a sense of intimacy as specific locations illustrate his words. Conversely, the lack of portraiture and self-penned music generates a feeling of absence. The soundtrack combines an ambient score from producer Steve Fisk and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard with Cobain favorites, like David Bowie, Cheap Trick, and the Vaselines (available on a separate CD). For more specifics, interested parties can always turn to tomes by Azerrad, Gina Arnold, Charles R. Cross, and Everett True. About a Son doesn't presume to provide a definitive portrait, but Schnack's rigorous avoidance of convention results in an experience far more dream-like than depressing. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kurt Cobain, Michael Azerrad, Courtney Love
  • Directors: AJ Schnack
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Unison Music Group (Universal)
  • DVD Release Date: February 19, 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000WTZ6M6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,579 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Kurt Cobain - About a Son" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Valerie J. Saturen VINE VOICE on December 3, 2007
Format: DVD
It is hard to find a single figure that looms larger in recent rock history than Kurt Cobain. It's harder still to come across an artist whose true nature was so obscured, even distorted, by his own legend. About a Son, based on interviews with Come as You Are author Michael Azzerad, offers a rare, sincere, and deeply moving glimpse into Cobain's private world. In the process, it reveals a side of the late musician often left out of sensationalized media portrayals of his life, drug use, and tragic end--he is perceptive, thoughtful, and quietly articulate, reflecting on his experiences with a candor unmatched in other interviews.

What makes the film unusual among documentaries is director AJ Schnack's determination to stay out of the way and allow Cobain to tell his own story. Eschewing the typical documentary format in which the viewer's gaze is focused on the subject, About a Son creates the sense of looking out through Kurt's eyes, seeing the images he would have seen and hearing the music he listened to. There are no Nirvana songs--just the music that inspired and influenced Cobain--and the visuals are a montage of evocative images of Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle. Listening to Kurt's sleepy, gravelly narration (most of the interviews were conducted in the wee hours of the morning) against the backdrop of these images elicits the feeling of taking a long stroll and talking intimately with an old friend.

As you stroll through Washington streets slicked with rain, passing floating bundles of Aberdeen timber, punk rock Olympia kids, and the city lights of Seattle, Kurt talks about his parents' divorce, his lifelong sense of isolation, the unexpected consequences of fame, and his unabashed devotion to his wife and daughter.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Eric Stiner on January 3, 2008
Format: DVD
Until now I don't think I have ever seen a film or piece of journalism that has accurately conveyed Cobain's impact on the world and the worlds affect on him. For most of my teenage years I admired Cobain's punk rock disdain for the press and interviews. But it made him a very mysterious figure. Some how this film maker got Kurt to sit down and speak candidly for hours about his life as it pertains to Nirvana. The cinematography is awesome. You can almost feel his ghost haunting each frame as Kurt's voice narrates the story of Nirvana. This film is really moving. If you own one film about Nirvanas visual history it should be this one.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 17, 2010
Format: DVD
Unless someone magically comes across one lying in a box somewhere, we are never going to get a Kurt Cobain autobiography. The closest thing we'll get is "Kurt Cobain - About a Son," a documentary cobbled out of Michael Azerrad's interviews with the late rock'n'roll star -- and Cobain both explores his own past and strips away some of his legends.

The interviews took place in the early nineties over the course of a few months, about a year before Cobain's tragic death. Some are in person, and a few are over the phone. They're pleasantly informal and laid-back, since Cobain munches on a sandwich during one segment, and is occasionally interrupted by Courtney.

Over the course of several interviews, Cobain reflects on his life before rock stardom -- his childhood and his hometown, his formative years of mischief, his love of punk rock, his desire to be a rock star, and the early days of Nirvana. Cobain also contemplated drugs, health problems, his allure to flies, his quirky art, Courtney Love, fatherhood, turtles, misanthropy, death, oregano, journalists (I guess Azerrad was an exception), his bandmates, being onstage, the future of rock'n'roll, and his own reputation.

Since the interviews were taped with sound only, director AJ Schnack fills the screen with soundless, strangely ambient images from Seattle, Olympia and Aberdeen. Musicians, stores, logging machines, streets, forests, houses and faces pass by quietly -- as well as some weird cartoons. It feels a little like a nostalgic look through Cobain's own eyes.

Cobain himself was a remarkable person who has been overshadowed by his own posthumous legend (even when he was alive).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Hartley on February 18, 2008
Format: DVD
It's nearly impossible to be a pop culture aficionado living here in Seattle and not be reminded of Cobain's profound impact on the music world. Every April, around the anniversary of his death, wreaths of flowers and hand taped notes begin to appear on a lone bench in a tiny public park sandwiched between the lakefront mansions I pass on my way to work every morning. Inevitably, I will see small groups of young people with multi-colored hair and torn jeans, making their pilgrimage and holding vigil around this makeshift shrine, located a block or two from the home where he took his own life.

"About a Son" is a reflective and uniquely impressionistic portrait of Cobain's short life. There are none of the usual talking head interviews or performance clips here; in fact there is nary a photo image of Cobain or Nirvana displayed until a good hour into the documentary. Nonetheless, director A.J. Schnack is holding an ace; he was given access to a series of surprisingly frank and intimate audio interviews that Cobain recorded at his Seattle home circa 1992-1993. He marries up Cobain's childhood and teenage recollections with beautifully shot footage of his hometown of Aberdeen and its Washington logging country environs. As Cobain's self-narrated life story moves to Olympia, then inevitably to Seattle, Schnack's POV travelogue follows right along. The combination of Cobain's narrative voice with the visuals has an eerie effect; you begin to feel that you are inside Cobain's temporal memories-kicking aimlessly around the depressing cultural vacuum of a blue collar logging town,walking the halls of his high school, sleeping under a railroad bridge,sitting on a mattress on a crash pad floor and practicing guitar for hours on end.
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