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Nick Broomfield's documentary paints an unsettling and unattractive portrait of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain.

Smells Like a Stinker


"Kurt and Courtney"
10 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 6
Repeats Aug. 15 and 26

He was a sweet-faced, blue-eyed blonde who grew up to be an important grunge-rock star, yet still looked and sounded like a nice guy. Except when he was shooting up heroin and making threatening telephone calls.

She was a hard-as-nails groupie, a smarmy and whorish bitch, who grabbed onto the coattails of anybody she thought could help her get where she wanted to be and then screwed them over when she was through using them. She was hooked on heroin, too. But she found success: She eventually married a rock star and then, some say, murdered him.

Welcome to the squalid, sordid world of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love as depicted in "Kurt and Courtney," a 100-minute cinema-verité documentary made two years ago by Nick Broomfield.

This is the film that got a lot of music-world ink when it was slighted by the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and faced the wrath of Courtney Love and her throng of attorneys before its screening in San Francisco.

If you want a look at what Love was afraid Broomfield would show, here's your chance. And, believe me, it ain't a pretty sight.

Broomfield, who carries his sound equipment on his own back and works with a single photographer, opens his film with the details of Cobain's death in April 1994. The body was found in an apartment above the garage of his home. He had a shotgun wound to his head. Nearby was a cigar box with syringes, burnt spoons and small pieces of black tar. What looked like a suicide note — and is still considered to be such by local police — was nearby, addressed to his family, friends and fans. He was 27 years old when he died. An electrician found his body. There were no fingerprints on the shotgun or the shells.

Most of the people Broomfield interviews as he meanders up and down the West Coast seeking to find out the "real" story behind Cobain's death will make your flesh crawl. Except maybe for Cobain's Aunt Mary, who has early tapes of what Cobain sounded like when he was 2 years old. You won't hear those tapes in "Kurt and Courtney" — or any other recordings made by either of the two — because Love controls the rights and refused to let Broomfield use them.

You'll meet some of Cobain's early girlfriends: They're not so bad, and they'll show you some snapshots of Kurt before he became a star. One of them also shows off some early Cobain art: paintings of skeletons and fetuses. But it's Broomfield's interviews with Love's tough-love father — he thinks she murdered Kurt — and some of the people who met Cobain after he became a rock star that will give you the willies. Many of them look drugged nearly to insensibility as they talk about what might have really happened to Kurt.

And there are some ghastly scenes with Love, who goes beyond behaving like a demon possessed.

But don't look for conclusions about much of anything in Broomfield's film. There aren't any. So what's the point of "Kurt and Courtney?" Actually, I don't think there really is

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