Kurt Cobain: About a Son ***

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the November 1993 taping of "MTV Unplugged" in New York. The film uses excerpts from 25 hours of taped interviews.

Directed by AJ Schnack. With the voice of Kurt Cobain. Distributed by Balcony Releasing. 1 hour, 36 mins. No MPAA rating (profanity, adult themes). Playing at Ritz at the Bourse.

Less a movie than an illustrated audiotape, Kurt Cobain: About a Son is nonetheless fascinating for what it reveals of its subject, the late lead singer of Nirvana, and what it says about the cult of celebrity, and the banality of celebrities, too.

Using excerpts from 25 hours of taped interviews between Cobain, a year before his 1994 suicide, and journalist Michael Azerrad, director AJ Schnack matches Cobain's accounts of an unhappy childhood and burgeoning music career with time-lapse photography of scudding Pacific Northwest cloudscapes, of timber trucks and mossy forests, of hipsters and geeks, music venues and grungy cafes.

Cobain acknowledges a fierce antisocial streak (he had a "need not to belong"), his dependency on opiates, his longing for a loving family, and the struggles he and Courtney Love faced as a couple, as parents, and as the two-headed monster at the eye of a paparazzi storm. ("We're cartoon characters," he says bitterly about the way the media portrayed them. Journalists are "the most ruthless life form on Earth.")

Kurt Cobain: About a Son will be of particular interest to members of the Church of Kurt, to Nirvana fans, and to rockers with serious aspirations to fame and acclaim. But the film demands broader scrutiny: It's a study in human behavior, describing how a self-confessed "emotional wreck," through accident and ambition, talent and temperament, became a star.

   - Steven Rea