Kurt & Courtney|
Directed By Nick Broomfield
Released February 27, 1998
Available on VHS and DVD
There are mixed feelings on this documentary. Broomfield spends time investigating the murder theory, but doesn't seem to take it very seriously. It seems to be more of a study of control and censorship in the media than really serious look into the murder theory. A little bird told us that some of his crew that worked the cameras were fighting with him and trying to get him to really ask pressing questions about Kurt's death, which he really didn't do in some cases. Quite frankly, there is a lot of crap that did not belong in the final cut. Do we really need to see Nick walk into the wrong apartment, or show a guy buying soda from a machine? There were also a few interviews with people that were a flat out waste of time. Nonetheless, Tom Grant is interviewed about his investigation, as is Eldon Hoke (El Duce), who claimed Courtney offered him $50,000 to kill Kurt and passed a lie detector test. Courtney's father Hank Harrison is also interviewed a few times. He believes Kurt was murdered, but seems to have his own agenda. Harrison goes on a very strange rant about his daughter towards the end of the film, which probably exposes some of his true intentions. There are also interviews with Kurt's best friend Dylan Carlson who appears to be nervous and very evasive; Victoria Clarke , an author who was attacked by Courtney; Kurt's friend Alice Wheeler , who talks about how Courtney went after Kurt's friends after he died with threats to keep quiet; and one of Courtney's old boyfriends who claims she drove him nuts and ruined his music career. Probably the most interesting segment of the film is the interview with a nervous 22 year old woman who talks to Broomfield about working at the Cobain home as a nanny in Kurt's final months. She claims Courtney was obsessed with Kurt's Will in the weeks prior to his death.
Also interesting are some of the phone calls between Nick and his producers during the course of the film. Broomfield's film was financed by the cable network Showtime (owned by Viacom, which also owns MTV). Apparently Courtney tried everything she could, including getting the head of MTV Networks to call Showtime and force them to withdraw Broomfield's funding when he started getting into, and interviewing people about the murder theories. It succeeded, as he needed assistance from the BBC and private investors to finish the film.
Broomfield makes a major error in the film when he finds a British doctor named Colin Brewer to debunk the main point that Kurt could not have picked up the shotgun and shot himself after taking 225 mgs of heroin. This doctor showed slides of a patient standing on one leg who had apparently taken equivalent of over "twice" the amount taken by Kurt. The difference is this patient had taken methadone and not heroin. He also swallowed his dose. Kurt was injected with his heroin. Obviously injecting something directly into your bloodstream will have a more instant effect than swallowing. Also heroin is much stronger, much more toxic and much faster acting than methadone. Amazing that such a mistake made it to the final cut. Broomfield then uses this incorrect information as his reason to discount the murder theory. Tom Grant, who was prepared to drop his investigation if the findings were accurate, contacted the doctor. The doctor conceded that he wasn't licensed to administer heroin, so he could not have duplicated Cobain's dose if he wanted to. Some say that Broomfield realized his mistake later on, Grant also sent him a fax about it. However, the film was already completed and released. The damage had already been done.
Tom Grant does not blame Broomfield for the error, even though it is very damaging to the credibility of the murder theory. "This is very complicated science. It's easy to get confused. That's why the police weren't able to pick up on it. You need someone looking at this evidence that has experience with heroin toxicity."
Kurt & Courtney was released in early 1998 with a scheduled premiere at actor Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival. However, it was pulled from the lineup 3 days earlier because of a dispute over music rights. The film's soundtrack included two songs controlled by Courtney Love, "Smell's Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana and "Doll Parts" by Hole. Broomfield insisted that the BBC obtained clearance to use the songs. Love's lawyers claimed they did not, and that they would sue the festival if the film was shown. Robert Redford wasn't thrilled and lashed out at Courtney during a press conference by saying "as an artist who's benefited so much from freedome of speech in her career, I find it highly ironic that she chose to prevent another artist from showing his work". This reportedly infuriated Courtney. Apparently her publicity company PMK also represented Redford.
Being pulled from Sundance didn't stop Broomfield, who organized a secret, invitation-only midnight showing of the film for selected media. Courtey's attempt to silence Broomfield backfired as worldwide headlines brought the film a tremendous amount of free publicity. "The most talked about film at the Sundance Film Festival is the one they were afraid to show!" - Newsweek Magazine.
If you're interested in seeing the entire film, try renting it if your local video store carries it. The Sundance Channel and Independent Film Channel both run it every now and then. It can also be purchased online in both VHS and DVD formats through Amazon.com.