Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is marketed as the benchmark documentary of the life, times, and untimely death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. It’s been praised for its innovative use of Cobain’s own artwork and writings to explore and expose the reality and mythology of Kurt Cobain. It reportedly gave fans and his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, insight into a celebrity who few people knew well, and it’s a pack of lies.
At least, according to founding member of the Melvins and longtime Cobain friend, Buzz Osborne.
Osborne wrote a long essay for The Talk House in which he refutes large portions of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. How much does Osborne refute?
“…people need to understand that 90% of Montage of Heck is bulls**t. Total bulls**t.”
"Perhaps the greatest biographical film ever made about an artist." Entertainment Weekly tonight @sheffdocfest 8:45 with q and a.
— Brett Morgen (@brettmorgen) June 6, 2015
Buzz Osborne specifically refutes two revelations from Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. The first is a sexual encounter with a “retarded” classmate told in Cobain’s own voice. According to Cobain, his classmates mocked him when they learned of the encounter, and the humiliation led to a suicide attempt. Not so, says Osborne.
“Not even an inkling of truth. That’s too good a story to have gone this long without me hearing about it, especially if, as he suggests, the girl’s father freaked out about it at the high school….exciting news of that nature would have been common knowledge before the sun set. It never happened….There it is, though, told in a recording of Kurt’s own voice so it must be true…right? Wrong.”
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck alleges that Cobain used heroin to medicate a chronic stomach issue. Interviews seem to support the claim, but again Osborne says it was all a lie.
“Kurt also told me there was absolutely nothing wrong with his stomach. He made it up for sympathy and so he could use it as an excuse to stay loaded. Of course he was vomiting — that’s what people on heroin do, they vomit. It’s called ‘vomiting with a smile on your face.'”
For what it’s worth, Osborne doesn’t blame Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck director Brett Morgen for the documentary’s failures, despite the fact that Morgen had the final say in everything that appears in the film. According to Osborne, it was inevitable that so much would be misunderstood, because that’s the way Cobain wanted it.
“That’s the one thing no one gets about Cobain — he was a master of jerking your chain.”
Brett Morgen hasn’t commented on Osbourne’s allegations, but if they prove true, Montage of Heck‘s legacy may boil down to increasing the mythology of Kurt Cobain, exactly what Morgen and Frances Bean Cobain hoped the film wouldn’t do.
[Photo by Frank Micelotta / Stringer/Getty Images]