Kurt Cobain: About a Son (2006)

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Released 14-May-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 92:59 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By AJ Schnack
Studio
Distributor
Dendy
Madman Entertainment
Starring Kurt Cobain
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Steve Fisk
Benjamin Gibbard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Kurt Cobain: About a Son is the story of Kurt Cobain, told in his own words. Anyone familiar with the tormented musician is probably wondering how this is the case in a film made nearly more than a decade after his apparent suicide. The film collates audio taped by biographer Michael Azerrad when researching his book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana about a year before Cobain's death. The 25 or so hours of Azerrad's tapes have been whittled down to an insightful 90 minutes of material.

    The audio offers a great insight into the personality of Kurt Cobain. It paints a picture of a man who had been through some trying times, but generally seemed pretty lucid and down to Earth. It is hard to say whether it offers any insight into his alleged suicide. Kurt certainly talks of events in his life that have made him think about killing himself, but never in such a way that sounds like more than a casual exaggeration of circumstances.

    The story is very much that of Cobain and not that of Nirvana. Much of the key periods and events in the the history of the band are brushed past or ignored entirely. Those that are mentioned are only mentioned in respect to how they affected Cobain personally.

    The visual aspect of the film treads a fine line between poetic and pretentious, frequently taking big steps to either direction. Virtually all the footage of Cobain himself consists of still images, the majority of which are well known photos that fans will have seen before dozens of times. Most of the background footage is moody and/or artistic shots that loosely work with the mood of the audio excerpt being played at the time. The effect is a success far more frequently than it is a failure.

    The appeal of Kurt Cobain: About a Son is really limited to serious Kurt Cobain fans and film school students. That's not to say this isn't a worthwhile documentary, far from it, but casual fans would do better to get a general history lesson from Hype! and anybody looking for a tabloid version of the story, complete with wild-eyed conspiracy theories, would do better to check out Kurt and Courtney.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which appears to be an open matte of the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video looks very good. There is never undue sign of grain or low level noise and the video features excellent shadow detail.

    The colour in the video varies significantly between different clips, though in a deliberate fashion. It is fair to say the transfer does it justice as the colour is bold and natural when it wants to be, just as it is and cold and effected at other times.

    There are no signs of compression related artefacts in the video. A handful of film artefacts (small white flecks) are visible throughout the feature, though the vast majority of these look to be deliberately included to give the video a gritty look.

    No subtitles are present for the feature.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 55:18 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio tracks are present for the film.

    The audio tapes are frequently a little muffled or affected by distortion, though it is clear that a significant effort has been made to clean them up. There is rarely a moment that the dialogue is particularly hard to understand, however lo-fi it sounds.

    The film features an excellent soft piano/keyboard and guitar score by Seattle producer Steve Fisk and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard, coupled with excerpts of a number of Cobain's favourite songs. The effect of the soundtrack is frequently more haunting than Cobain's own musings and increases the power in his words substantially without distorting their meaning.

    There is not a great deal of surround speaker or subwoofer usage, though there is not a great need for it either. The score is panned out somewhat with the dialogue concentrated on the front speakers for the bulk of the documentary.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical trailer (2:07)

    A rather engaging theatrical trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 edition misses out on the trailer found on the Region 4 edition, but includes a number of more worthwhile extras. Specifically, Region 4 misses:

Summary

    A haunting portrait of the late Kurt Cobain, told in his own words. This is an excellent doco for fans, but will be a hard sell to anybody that doesn't already have a solid interest in the late Nirvana frontman.

    The video and audio are both excellent, particularly given the archival nature of the audio.

    The extras are mighty slim and miss several features found on editions from other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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