Sensitivity, like a superpower, can be a glorious and terrible gift. In Brett Morgen’s revelatory documentary “Kurt Cobain: A Montage of Heck,” which airs tonight on HBO, we see—almost from the inside—the evolution of Cobain’s sensitive brilliance and the art and destruction that it fed. Much of the film, which Morgen made with the full participation of Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, and his mother, father, and sister, consists of Cobain’s own creations: there’s the music, sounding glorious as ever, as well as art work, notebooks, films, and audio recordings that had never been made public.
Morgen presents them in an artistic mashup of sound and image, interspersed with interviews with Cobain’s survivors. At the beginning, we see Super-8 footage of Kurt, a blond toddler waving and blowing kisses from his stroller; soon he’s wearing a sport coat and playing a tiny guitar. “I’m Kurt Cobain,” his little voice says proudly. The film ends just before his death, at twenty-seven. In between, “Montage of Heck” shows the evolution of an artist.