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Kurt Cobain - About a Son

4.0 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

KURT COBAIN ABOUT A SON is a profound, almost dream-like account of Cobain's own successes and failures, thoughts and experiences, allowing the audience to gain unprecedented intimacy with this legendary figure.


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:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Unison Music Group (Universal)
  • DVD Release Date: February 19, 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000WTZ6M6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,633 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Kurt Cobain - About a Son" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Blu-ray
For himself, Kurt Cobain did one thing exactly right and that was give this audio interview. I love that it was conducted at midnight, or early in the morning giving a beautiful witching-hour feel. The first time I saw it was on netflix and had no idea what it was other than being drawn by his face on the cover. I almost got bored at the start and turned it off because I thought it was a reinactment and completely fake. I wasn't even sure it was about him, I thought maybe I had misunderstood the title and it was just an allusion to him.

The film just starts. No mention of his name or who is talking or what the visuals are. I wasn't even sure it was his voice I was hearing. In fact, I was sure it wasn't him. A friend, maybe. Or the director. But not him. The person speaking sounded so strangely normal. Slowly, tho, the realization that it might actually be Cobain talking, and then that it *must* be him talking and could be no one else, evolves. And, then, just wow - I was sucked right in. It's like listening to a private conversation and I was astonished by his authetic, unhurried, un-caring-to-entertain-anyone-whatsoever self.

After I'd realized it was his voice, I watched it dawned on me, again, slowly, that the film was scouting real locations specifically-personal to Cobain's life, and was illustrating what he's talking about. I assumed this for quite awhile because I also thought that might be wishful thinking on my part. But no. Listening to him talk you eventually realize are staring at his old room, old houses, old haunts. Did he really sleep in this trashed room? Or go to see bands in this bar? Or sit in this library when he was homeless? Really?

And, then, that's when the profundity of the film sunk in for me.
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