Monday, July 9, 2012

Courtney Love controversy

The 1998 documentary, Kurt and Courtney, directed by Nicholas Broomfield has been dubbed "the film Courtney didn't want you to see" by many film critics. Due to the well-documented controversy surrounding the film throughout its production, many people have viewed this film in order to see 'what the commotion was about'. A great deal of this controversy appeared when Broomfield's financial partners for the film, MTV, withdrew their support after Courtney Love threatened legal action against the company and Broomfield. Because of this controversy surrounding the film, it makes it an interesting film to view.

The film, Kurt and Courtney, follows the director, Nicholas Broomfield, in is search for the truth about the relationship between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love in a 'behind the scenes' style of journalism. Throughout the film you are witness to many scenes that would have been edited out of a more conventional documentary, for example, Broom field driving down streets to an interviewee's house while telling the viewer about the person. This style of documentary has a mixed reaction with film critics as it uses aspects that are rarely used in documentary that gives the film a more realistic experience.

This mixed reaction tends to have a love/hate relationship towards the film. One reviewer said "he [Broomfield] digs into the sad life and death of Kurt Cobain, leader of the revolutionary band Nirvana, with unsettling and unsatisfying results." (McGurk n.d.) Another reviewer stated, "the cast of real-life characters, such as it is, is the reason to watch Kurt and Courtney - not Broomfield's documentary skills, which are negligible." (McDonald n.d.) There are many other articles on the film, although a large majority of them state that the film is exceptional despite the fact that the directing skills of Broomfield are less then desirable.

Many issues are raised within the film, they include: the rise and fall of stardom, suicide, murder and crumbling marriages. Some of these issues, particularly suicide, are still major concerns of today's society. It is these issues that keep the documentary moving along. By interviewing Cobain's aunt you are introduced to the early life of the star and how "he was insecure with the trappings of fame." This statement is constantly referred back to throughout the film. Broomfield then makes a bold step to interview a shady character called El Duce who claims that Love offered him $50,000 "to whack Kurt Cobain," Broomfield also introduces many of Cobain's 'friends' who tell their versions of the couple's marriage, all of which claimed that Love was 'feeding' off Cobain's fame. Throughout these interviews Broomfield fails to question any 'real facts' that are presented to him, for example, he doesn't question El Duce about any of the factors surrounding Love's 'proposition' to kill Cobain. This fact alone could have made the documentary more informative to the viewer.
Broomfield tries to convince the viewer that he is showing the truth behind the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love story by showing footage that is generally cut from documentary films, by showing phone conversations with superiors and MTV officials, his attempts to contact Love and his constant claims that Love deliberately thwarted his right to freedom of speech throughout the production of the film.

Broomfield creates the illusion he is presenting the viewer with the 'truth', when in fact he is actually representing reality. In other words he is showing his belief on what the 'truth' is, his ideology. The film portrays Broomfield's belief that Love is a cold, aggressive "harpie" and "vampire" who only used Cobain as a 'step-ladder' to help motivate her career, and portrays Cobain as a good-hearted soul who was trapped and isolated within the web of stardom. By showing people who hold Cobain in high regard and despise Love, you are only shown the view that Broomfield thinks the viewer should see. The film fails to introduce anyone with a different viewpoint on the story, someone who defends Love. By doing so the film makes it hard to believe that it is representing the whole 'truth' of the story. Interviewing people who have something against Love hinders the viewers' ability to form an opinion to make a just conclusion about the story of these two stars.

In conclusion, the film Kurt and Courtney only represents reality by showing a one-sided view of the story. It makes it hard to draw an unbiased opinion of the facts presented within the film due to the personal beliefs of director, Nicholas Broomfield. Had Broomfield presented a more evenly based argument, perhaps by introducing characters that were neutral or didn't have a grudge against Love, then the film may have been closer to the reality behind the couples lives, not representing the reality based on the directors' own beliefs.
By including the behind-the-scenes footage, Broomfield has been able to effectively portray an aspect of 'truth' within the film. By including these scenes the film is able to give a somewhat personal experience to the end product. By using this method the director can lay claim that the film is closer to the truth than most other films, even if it is still only representing reality. By showing these scenes the viewer is able to see some of the many problems faced when producing a documentary film. Whilst the film only presents a one-sided opinion, this film is actually extremely interesting and a great source to those interested in the art of filmmaking.
The film was able to succeed because of the many factors surrounding its production. When Courtney Love attempted to take legal action against the film, she opened up many avenues for Broomfield to take the negative publicity. By continuing with the film Broomfield made the statement that there was something within the story that needed to be told, why would Love cover up anything if was innocent of all allegations? This factor has been the main reason why the film has succeeded. Also, Courtney Love constantly hounded Broomfield in an attempt to stop the director producing the film, even to the extent of threatening MTV, Broomfield's financial partners for the film, which caused a lot of media interest in the film. Broomfield successfully used this negative publicity to play the interest in perspective viewers. Over all Kurt and Courtney deserves its good praise as it is cleverly designed and well put together.