By Shannon Carlin
Seeing is believing, as the saying goes. Now more than ever, we’ve been trained to take whatever we read on the internet with a grain of salt until there’s some visual proof. Even the craziest stories have been proven true thanks to verified visual evidence—a photo, a cellphone video, leaked security camera footage.
If you simply read about Britney Spears attacking a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella, it’s gossip. But the minute you see a ballistic bald Britney ramming that umbrella into a car door you can’t deny the reality of it. You may just laugh off the idea of Solange Knowles beating on Jay Z in an elevator on her way out of the Met Gala, but footage from within that elevator shows the younger Knowles is one hell of a scrappy fighter.
Brett Morgen’s new documentary Montage of Heck, in theaters now for a limited time and premiering on HBO this Monday night (May 4), puts Kurt Cobain under a microscope. Using recently unearthed audio and home video from the Nirvana frontman’s collection, Morgen takes this seeing-is-believing approach even further by using found footage to put to rest the image of “St. Kurt.” However the film is not an attack on Cobain’s character, in fact, it’s the exact opposite—for the very first time, fans get to see Cobain as the flawed human being he really was.
The term “found footage” is usually used to describe the genre of low-budget horror films like The Blair Witch Project and the Paranormal Activity. The footage for these films is purported to be the only surviving record of a certain event, with the knowledge right from the beginning that the participants are now missing or dead. In Morgen’s case, his found footage is legitimately the only surviving record of Cobain and it was actually found in boxes kept at a Los Angeles storage facility. With the permission of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, Morgen rummaged through boxes and boxes of personal tapes to string together a story that is often as upsetting as anything you’ll find in a horror movie.