On the Town with Shinan: Kurt Cobain comes to Toronto, plus where to eat in LA

By Shinan Govani

She calls him “Kurt,” plain and simple. Someone – an idea, a foreign land – that she's heard tons about, but doesn't exactly know.

When she introduces herself, meanwhile, it goes something like this: “Hi, my names is Frances Bean Cobain.”

It's two things that the 22-year-old – that quizzical species we know in our culture as a rock star progeny – has had to do more than usual as she's hit the promo circuit for a movie about her dad, frozen-in-time Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, on which she was an executive producer. The film, titled Montage of Heck, makes its Canadian première in Toronto this weekend as part of the Hot Docs Festival and has thrust the only daughter of Courtney Love into the spotlight in a wholly new way. We know now that Frances Bean – currently the same age that her father was when he recorded the first Nirvana album – is more partial to painting than music in her own creative pursuits. We know that the documentary, in a strange yet healing way, brought her closer to her rocker mother, against whom Frances once – rather famously - took out a restraining order. We've learned that Frances cops to not being much of a Nirvana fan, and instead – a-ha! - prefers the likes of Oasis when it comes to her ‘90s intake.

“Even though Kurt died in the most horrific way possible, there is this mythology and romanticism that surrounds him, because he's 27 forever,” his daughter recently mused in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “The shelf life of an artist or musician isn't particularly long. Kurt has gotten to icon status because he will never age. He will always be that relevant in that time and always be beautiful.”

This new movie, on the other hand, seeks to be “a basic understanding of who Kurt was as a human being.” Drawing on tons of home videos, private diaries, and lost cassette tape recordings, Montage of Heck comes to us via Brett Morgen, who also directed 2002's The Kid Stays in the Picture, a similarly gauzy take on Hollywood producer Robert Evans (and, in my opinion, one of the best documentaries ever made).

Frances, he confirms, gave him full autonomy and didn't ask him to sugarcoat anything. Consequently, Kurt – who instantly became a Gen-X poster boy when he died of a heroin overdose two decades ago – is shown at one juncture in the film clearly stoned, attempting to hold his baby daughter while Courtney gives her a haircut. “It's a profoundly sad, troubling piece of footage,” an article in Entertainment Weekly pointed out, “the type of low point that public figures tend to buy forever.” But Frances and Brett insist they were after the un-airbrushed truth.

The movie was an eight-year journey, in total. And after first screening the film for Frances and Courtney, Brett has revealed, he went into a bathroom and wept for 25 minutes. The way he explains it is this: “It had to do with the fact that from that moment on, I was going to be drifting away from Kurt…That for years, he was the central focus of my work, and I felt like I spent more time with him than anyone outside of my immediate family.”

Meanwhile:

Where in the world is Rachel McAdams? The Toronto-based darling, who's been working in L.A. lately, was spotted just the other night at Craig's on Melrose. That's the restaurant that just happens to be my favourite in the City of Angels these days – built for both privacy and self-display, dark but not too dark, it attracts a nightly parade of aging rockers, hungry ingenues and industry titans. When I was there, a few months back, I also got a Goodfellas vibe from it – a bit of New York-does-L.A. Really fun!

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