Director Nick Broomfield probably envisioned Kurt &
Courtney, the latest installment in Cinemax's Reel Life documentary
series, as a treatise on rock star overindulgence. But when it comes to overindulgence,
grunge diva Courtney Love's got nothing on Broomfield himself.
The two-hour film -- which had been seen in a few art-house
cinemas and is making its cable debut -- depicts Broomfield traveling around the West
Coast seeking out acquaintances of Love and her husband, the late Nirvana front man Kurt
Cobain to find out the truth about the grunge-rock pioneer's 1994 suicide.
The film itself is shot in a cinema verité style; narrator
Broomfield injects himself into about half of the scenes, wearing headphones and holding a
boom mike. The documentary focuses as much on his making of the film as it does on the
One of the most blatant examples comes early on, when the
film wastes five minutes showing Broomfield getting ejected from the lobby of the
Washington State Lottery's headquarters, after asking the receptionist if a rumor
that Cobain used to shoot a pellet gun from the house across the street was true.
It's also a comedy of errors. In one scene, two
interviewers hired by Broomfield try to approach Love at a secret recording session but
the battery in their minicam runs out.
Broomfield also tries to present himself as an objective
purveyor of information, but it's clear that he buys at least somewhat into the
theory that Cobain's suicide was actually a murder, and Love might have been
responsible. He also selects subjects sure to cast Love in a bad light: her estranged
father, a former boyfriend who was a local rock star in Portland, Ore., and "El
Duce," a hard-core rock singer who claims that Love offered him $50,000 to kill Kurt.
The climax -- in which Broomfield takes to the podium at an
ACLU rally to ask Courtney why she harasses reporters -- typifies the whole film:
it's sloppy and it puts the filmmaker front and center in the story he's trying
Cinemax Reel Life: Kurt & Courtney debuts Friday at
10 p.m. on Cinemax.