Interview: Brett Morgan, director of ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’


Donnchadh Tiernan spoke to Brett Morgan about his documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, which uses material from the Cobains’ personal archives in an in-depth examination of the Nirvana frontman’s childhood, music career and untimely death.


How much audio and video had you at your disposal?

In excess of 800 to a 1,000 hours of material – the bulk of that would have been VHS/camcorder footage of early Nirvana gigs. The real gold was all the stuff I’d been presented with by Kurt’s immediate family and that was all the material that had never seen the light of day and that made up the bulk of our film – that was about 30 hours of material. The 500 hours or so of concert footage wasn’t that much of a burden in terms of designing the narrative.


The footage you got from his family – was that just him as a child?

The footage from the family is pretty much everything you see in the film up to the point when Nirvana broke. One of the things we’ve never called attention to is that the first video-recorded interview with Nirvana is seen in our film for the first time publicily. That comes in about an hour into the film. And that had never been seen before. So it’s not really up to The Teen Spirit video when we started dealing with imagery that has been accessible. Then when you get through the Nevermind period once again you’re back in this world of never-been-seen-before material. It was important for us to access that stuff because that’s where I felt I was able to access a part of Kurt that was never presented to the public.


How did you go about putting all the material together?

My process for all my films is the same – what I do is about a year before I plan to enter the edit room I engage with archivists who spend the bulk of that year collecting every piece of media that exists on the subject. About 9 months into that I bring in an assistant editor who starts to organise the footage chronologically and then I sit down with an editor and screen through everything, both audio and visual – in this way I find that certain themes start to emerge. With this film, that meant starting with footage of Kurt when he was 6 months old and taking it all the way to the end.


As a result of this, it’s a particularly revealing and intimate film.

The intimacy is unfiltered. It’s not Kurt performing for the media – these are elements created by himself or filmed by his family or close friends. So there’s an intimacy in how this work was produced that I think translated quite well in the broader context of the film.


Were you always planning to have the animated sequences or is that something that developed over time?

I knew we were going to have to animate the journals but I never intended to have an animated depiction of Kurt. What happened was we cut the film with the audio and when I experienced those scenes with nothing but a blank screen it was riveting and I loved the idea of being able to visualise it myself but obviously you can’t do that for 7 minutes in the movie. I needed to bring that story to life. It’s specific to the subject matter – in this case there’s a kind of formalism to those scenes that sort of exist outside of the film – the only other place where you see those kind of compositions are in the interviews –  and that’s very deliberate because in those sequences where we animate Kurt we are, in a sense, stepping out of Kurt’s point of view, in the sense that we are creating those images. The same can be said for the interviews, which again kind of exist outside the body of the film. The body of the film is Kurt’s interior journey through life as depicted through his art – whether that be sound collage, his music , paintings or what have you. And this is contextualized by those people who were most intimate with Kurt Cobain during his lifetime.


Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is in cinemas now.


I Used to Live Here


DIR/WRI: Frank Berry •  PRO: Frank Berry, Donna Eperon • DOP: Colm Mullen • ED: Frank Berry • MUS: Daragh O’Toole • CAST: Jordanne Jones, Dafhyd Flynn, James Kelly, Ross Geraghty

Neo-realism is a piece of film-terminology largely lost on the modern cinema-audience, save those with more than a passing interest in cinema, verging on an academic one. The meaning of the term could, on a very base level, be interpreted to refer to a very particular era of black-and-white filmmaking in post-war Italy. The fact is, like the Dogma-95 troupe or the surrealists, neo-realism was a screen philosophy that was/is adoptable and potentially of benefit to anyone willing to utilise its paradigms, those being on-location, shooting using local non-actors, telling a story that is thematically prevalent on a local level. I know one highly accomplished film-studies professor who gladly declares Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets to be the best neo-realist film in existence. As far as the term travels, Frank Berry’s I Used to Live Here, is an accomplished neo-realist picture on every level, in that it is compelling, it is local and it is tragically necessary.

I Used to Live Here tells the story of Amy Keane, a Tallaght teenager attempting to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, and finding temptation in the idea of suicide while experiencing the local outcry of love for another teenager who takes his own life during the course of the film. The film, while officially written and directed by Frank Berry, is an unofficial compilation of experiences of suicide from the Tallaght community, with the script formed largely on a mixture of first-hand experiences of survivors of victims and deducible symptoms leading up to a young person taking their own life. Needless to say, the results are moving, relatable and overwhelmingly real.

Frank Berry’s major achievement here is how claustrophobic the film becomes despite being shot mostly outside. As Amy’s options seemingly dwindle, at least to her own perspective, the shots grow closer as though to relate her blindness to the arms aching to embrace her loneliness that surround her constantly. In these moments, I was brought to mind of Eric Steel’s excellent 2006 documentary, The Bridge, in particular the sequence where Ken Baldwin, a man who survived his own suicide attempt having leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, relates that, as his feet left the bridge, “I instantly realized that everything in my life I thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except having just jumped.” I Used to Live Here, like all great neo-realist films, bears a very poignant, deliberate message that culminates in the closing moments, and is crucially told depicted via the more ardent elements of filmmaking, i.e. – script-structure, editing, framing and acting. It is a message and a delivery that I’d dismay to ruin here by revealing too much, but suffice to say hat’s off to Dafhyd Flynn for subtly delivering the film’s finest performance and equally to Berry for keeping his cards so close in order to deliver a damning thematic blow in the closing moments.

I Used to Live Here is a film that has grown organically from the graves of a generation of suicide victims in Tallaght (where the film is set) and beyond. Shot locally, with local non-actors, this timely, poignant and ultimately necessary representation of the darkly mysterious and faceless menace of suicide and suicidal tendencies in communities will prove especially moving for some and should be considered essential viewing for everyone, regardless of their cinematic tendencies; cinematic tendencies considered, this is a vital 87-minutes for anyone who has dismayed at the potential power of cinema of recent years.

Donnchadh Tiernan


15A (See IFCO for details)
87 minutes

I Used to Live Here  is released 3rd April 2015

I Used to Live Here  – Official Website


Wild Tales


DIR/WRI: Damián Szifrón  • PRO: Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar, Esther García, Matías Mosteirín, Hugo Sigman • DOP: Javier Julia • ED: Pablo Barbieri Carrera, Damián Szifrón • MUS: Gustavo Santaolalla • DES: María Clara Notari • CAST: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa

In terms of genre and format, the anthology film occupies as shaky a spot in the world of cinema as the short story collection does in the world of literature. Are the singular tales themselves lesser works because they could not gain a sturdier stage-time such as, say, that of a feature film or a novel? Is the consumption of the tales as a collective imperative to our enjoyment of each individually? Some anthologies (such as last year’s exquisite A Touch of Sin) cheat the medium by linking the tales by a mere means of physical proximity of the end of one to the beginning of another, and some, such as the always interesting New York Stories, were comfortable to have their tales co-exist a connecting theme, in that case New York life. This week’s Argentinian effort, Wild Tales, lands in the latter camp, but only if catering to the murkier realms of human indulgence counts for a theme.

Wild Tales can be considered a masterclass in pulp filmmaking of both the short and novella format. Each story contains perceptible heroes and villains waltzing gracefully from white, through grey to morally black territory in lull allowing any audience living outside the confines of a monastery to joyfully experience the second-hand thrill of not giving a shit for consequence in the modern world. And, on second thoughts, its screening within a monastery to monastic inhabitants is perhaps the only means by which this delight could be made yet more cathartic.

The stories here encompass all manner of purposeful wrath, and the selected beefs on show, as chosen by writer-director Szifron, cast their seething glares upon everything to infidelity, to class-war, to road-rage, to parking tickets. Though the poster boasts a selection of revenge-themed tales, not all of the stories could boast as much and yet none fall short of delirious entertainment. The only manner this falls short as a piece of cinema is that the only scenario in which it functions justly as such is in a theatre in the dark; each story could function just as well if not better as a solo outing, a factor that plays most ironically when tied to the accumulating wedding-set tale, which boasts as good a cinematic matrimonial anyone will see this side of The Godfather.

Whether or not you view all of the Wild Tales in one sitting is a matter of minor irrelevance to this review. There’s truly something here for anyone who’s even flirted peripherally with their own moral grey-zone.


Donnchadh Tiernan


15A (See IFCO for details)
121 minutes

Wild Tales is released 27th March 2015

Wild Tales – Official Website




DIR: Neill Blomkamp • WRI: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell •  PRO: Simon Kinberg • DOP: Trent Opaloch • ED: Julian Clarke, Mark Goldblatt • MUS: Hans Zimmer • DES: Jules Cook • CAST: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

There is a billboard near my apartment that is resplendent with the latest didactic advertising statement from a particular sports brand that ticks all the boxes which warns passers-by that “There Will Be Haters”. Chappie, Neill Blomkamp’s third film proper since he burst out the gap with District 9 in 2009, would do well to heed the advice of the above quoted sports-brand slogan. Chappie is such a well-meaning, begrudger-effing parable that one can almost hear the hum of cynicism from the exit-doors of so many screening rooms nationwide. It’s oddly ironic that the advice of such a behemoth as that which adorns the billboard I pass daily should ring relevant for a film such as Chappie, because Sony-funding or no, any original science-fiction film with as overwhelmingly positive outlook as this will end up the little guy in any fight it comes up against.

The film begins as it does not mean to go on, with the same kind of faux-documentary footage that commenced Blomkamp’s debut. This totals twenty seconds at most, before we are blasted into a neon-painted impression of a Johannesburg policed by AI droids in the near future. The home-turf feels immediately welcoming to the director’s lens, slotting comfortably into this grimy production design which sings hymns to Mad Max and William Gibson in equal measure.

Neill Blomkamp has recently stated in an interview that the lyrical tableaux of South African rap duo Die Antwoord, whose videos and music were the happy discovery of this writer in the run-up to the film’s release, were directly the inspiration for the film and so it is entirely appropriate that they appear on screen, moments after machine-gun cackles set the picture in motion, and spark the plot to life.

The film’s central spiel involves Dev Patel’s Dion, designer of the police droids central to the plot, and his quest to create an AI with a consciousness, and Die Antwoord (perhaps playing themselves) kidnapping Dion and compelling him to leave the newly born AI in their care that they might teach him to perform heists in order to pay back a local crime-lord they owe. Taken at face value the plot is every bit as mundane as it might seem, but as a vehicle for the genius creation of Chappie, portrayed via motion capture by Sharto Copley, whose performance ought to give Andy Serkis a run for his money as mo-cap king. Put shortly, the simple plot serves as a perfect vehicle to birth Chappie, who’s such a gem he’s worth a thousand stories.

Chappie is at once, gorgeously created, photo-realistic, charming and hilarious. Having blubbered like a baby at last year’s Paddington, from which Chappie is not a million miles, theme-wise, I fully expected the mother-son relationship built up between the robot and his “Mummy” to end in tears but just as it is using the relationships it forms to craft exquisite themes of violence thriving in conditions of social-marginalisation as well as (once again) the purest of ideas that who we are on the inside is all that really matters, it is kicking ass and taking names in equal portions, with Hugh Jackman’s pistol-whipping Aussie antagonist chewing up more scenery than he knows what to do with and clearly having fun while he’s at it. The violence itself is bloody and horrific, as it should be. Violence is often taken on carelessly, with many an implication of immediate death and nary a drop of blood, and it is refreshing to see films such as this when violence rears its ugly head it is swiftly followed by a murky rush of claret to messily stain with contrast against the bubble-gum highlighter colour-pallet Blomkamp has opted for.

The only criticism I can level at this film, from the heart, is the occasionally hammy dialogue, which, honestly, considering what the film sets out to do, is no criticism at all. Every shot seems fairly judged, Hans Zimmer’s score dispenses tension and warmth as they are called for but does not over-saturate the visuals, an issue I see as going hand-in-hand recently with the more hollow fare of blockbuster. Hollowness is an attribute that was readily levelled at Blomkamp’s second feature, the po-faced, underwhelming Elysium, and for good reason; it severely let down the legions of cinema-goers who’d heralded the South African as a visionary saviour of original sci-fi on the back of his debut. Those fans may now rest easy again as Chappie cancels this bum-note completely and moves to directly build on the street-cred of District 9. We’ll take plenty more like this Neill, this’ll do grand.

Donnchadh Tiernan

15A (See IFCO for details)
120 minutes

Chappie is released 6th March 2015

Chappie  – Official Website



The Theory of Everything

DIR: James Marsh • WRI: Anthony McCarten • PRO: Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten • DOP: Benoît Delhomme • ED: Jinx Godfrey • DES: John Paul Kelly • MUS: Jóhann Jóhannsson • CAST: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior

The due note to make to oneself prior to a screening of The Theory of Everything is that it is first-and-foremost an adaptation of Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the memoir of one Jane Wilde Hawking, ex-wife of Stephen, and played with gentle enthuse by Felicity Jones in this year’s first hum-dinger, give-me-an-Oscar biopic. It is not, by any stretch, an attempt to adapt or even mildly document the theoretical physics of Stephen Hawking but rather to angle into his complicated family life a representation that appropriates unconditional love rather than didactic sympathy. This is a film that proudly depicts a life it considers nothing short of wonderful, which is an altogether pleasant surprise in the all-too-predictable mirage-like jungle of violin-screeching would-be biopics that yearn for sympathy above admiration, a quality that I, as an audience member, would, with the odd exception, personally necessitate of any subject considered worthy of a biopic.

The story begins in a rather dull manner, with Eddie Redmayne’s Hawking peddling metal giddily through the campus of Cambridge University in sequence that could be dropped into Chariots of Fire as easily. As a matter of fact everything progresses in a business-as-usual fashion until Stephen’s diagnosis with motor neuron disease, which is a pity considering that which is remarkable about the man commenced somewhat before this but forgivable considering the source material and emotional drive of the narrative.

The film’s greatest strengths are Eddie Redmayne, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, Benoît Delhomme cinematography and, at risk of crowding the list of highlights, one must credit James Marsh’s helming of the project entire, which echoes his previous Oscar-winning effort, Man on Wire, in a most joyful manner by presenting Professor Hawking as a man who’s physically the yin to that films uber-athlete’s (tightrope walker Phillipe Petit) yang and yet a kindred spirit in terms of sheer zest for life and experience.

Any plaudits thrown the way of this film, however, should, and will, land at the feet of Eddie Redmayne and the towering, joyous, magnetic performance he delivers to dwarf even the mighty David Thewlis, who here barely registers as Hawking’s Cambridge supervisor. Redmayne gives his body and soul to the character, in particular his eyes and hands, and it is the goods he delivers that allow the story to function well around the script’s driving theme; that the belief that everyone and everything has a place (the romantic application of the titular Theory of Everything that Hawking purportedly worked for most of his life), when applied to oneself has the ability to fill in even the most seemingly hopeless potential pits of despair. This is, above all, a life-affirming film on an almost spiritual level, something one feels Richard Dawkins would admonish were anyone to ever consider him worthy of a biopic.

The snags in the story, however inevitable, are rather course. The action moves along far too predictably to stand out as memorable, with some moments practically written around a template of Oscar-baiting schmaltz. The story lacks any real reference to any physics whatsoever, which comes across as a tad disrespectful to the audience this film will attract, namely one interested in the life of one of history’s most renowned physicists and, once again, as these stories are wont to do, everyone featuring is far too pretty and polished to care for on a realistic level. Overall though, the good moments outweigh the bad and this is by no means a trying way to spend a couple of hours indoors though not one you’re likely to remember a great deal of.


Donnchadh Tiernan

12A (See IFCO for details)
123 minutes.
The Theory of Everything
is released 2nd January 2015.

The Theory of Everything  – Official Website





DIR/WRI: Paul King   PRO: David Heyman  • DOP: Erik Wilson   ED: Mark Everson  •  MUS: Nick Urata Howard DES: Gary Williamson   CAST: Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Bonneville, Ben Whishaw

Paddington opens with such an odd send-up of imperialist Britain one practically expects Eric Idle to potter onscreen with a marmalade sandwich. It is a story which will be well-known by many but I was positively green to. A British explorer “in darkest Peru” happens upon a family of talking bears, introduces them to marmalade (a substance they become instantly addicted to), drops off a hat and buggers off back to London. Years later, when an earthquake ruins their home and kills the male, the grandson of the bears leaves for London in a lifeboat on a cargo boat with nothing but a hat and a can-do attitude and what can only be described as a shit-ton of marmalade, seeking asylum in the house of any Londoners who might take him in. He happens upon the Browns, who name him for the train station they meet him in and twenty minutes in the stage is set for a whimsical wee tale equally interpretable as a chirpy anti-UKIP yarn as it is a harrowing parable on the consequences of man’s interference with nature, although it’s mostly the former.

Start to finish I enjoyed this film. It is a closer rendition of a Wes Anderson children’s film than The Fantastic Mr. Fox could ever hope to be. It is as charmingly presented as a story-book illustration and as respectful of its audience as a Roald Dahl book. From the moment the screen flickered to life I was waiting for the meat of the human-bear dynamic jokes to run out but I simply couldn’t stop giggling. Hugh Bonneville in particular has terrific timing and the sheer nastiness of Nicole Kidman’s taxidermy enthusiast is funnier than anything Adam Sandler has produced in years. I’m fully aware this is becoming nothing short of a list of things I loved about Paddington so rather than order them I’m going to embrace the format.

The concept design is startlingly beautiful, right down to Peter Capaldi’s grumpy neighbour’s dressing gown. Sigur Ros’ score is soft as milk to the ears. Paddington himself is well-realised and not at all as creepy as I’d thought he appeared in the trailer. Every fifteen minutes or so the action is sublimely punctuated by a ska band singing sweetly about life in London.

There’s not a great deal I can say more relevant than simply “Go to see this”. You won’t believe me until you go but this film, which I’d previously written off as yet another cheap cash-in on a cherished property, is the best family film to go on release in some time.

Donnchadh Tiernan

G (See IFCO for details)

95 minutes

Paddington is released 21st November 2014

Paddington – Official Website


Get On Up


DIR: Tate Taylor  WRI: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth  PRO: Brian Grazer, Trish Hofmann, Erica Huggins, Mick Jagger, Victoria Pearman DOP: Stephen Goldblatt  ED: Michael McCusker  DES: Mark Ricker MUS: Thomas Newman  CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Dan Aykroyd, Fred Melamed

Any promotional material you read/view/hear for Tate Taylor’s Get On Up, the long-awaited James Brown biopic the world’s been fawning for since Christmas Day, 2006 (the day the self-scrawled “Godfather of Soul” passed), will name the seminal soul singer as an almost deity-like figure, epitomizing the African American experience from the early 1960s onward in musical form. As the stunning Chad Boseman chimes as an elderly Brown in the film’s opening scenes, “there’s some of me in every record you own”. Similar claims have been made by many a tiresome music biopic over the last decade and a half but approximately zero actor-director combo’s have pulled off the trick so convincingly as Taylor and Boseman do in Get On Up, which easily blows the former’s mediocre predecessor The Help out of its shallow waters to the point of game-changing.

The film bravely opens with an event for which Brown is arguably better known (certainly in lower brow circles) than for his entire discography combined, that being the drug-addled police-chase he embarked on in the days following his son’s death in 1988. The sequence, which opens with a frank shot of Brown’s hand adding angel-dust to a joint, includes at least two moments when the lead breaks the fourth wall, setting a new precedent for the drug-fuelled rock biopic beyond the woe-be-me hymns hummed by the likes of Walk the Line and Ray in that, rather than ignoring the nostalgic factor filmmakers inevitably approach such subjects with, Taylor uses a device most successfully used recently in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Bronson, in that he allows his subject bear the burden of agency in the telling of the tale. If this film shies away from darkness and murk it is because it is nothing more than Brown’s own spin on things, and begrudgers be damned.

As with other biopics that have allowed their subjects agency (the best example being Andrew Domink’s Chopper) the film is held together by a powerful, cohesive lead performance. Relative unknown Chad Boseman will not bear the subtitle long. He emanates sexuality with every lunge and whelp. His performance soars to such heights it negates the relatively fluffy acting surrounding him throughout, Dan Ackroyd seeming the most oddly miscast addition.

Credit due too in large to the script also, which meanders around chronology at an easy pace, dealing anecdotes as a means to a thematic narrative rather than the more traditional model excellently lampooned in Walk Hard. It is shot with the usual High Definition glitz we’ve come to expect from any film set even a little bit in the seventies, which works a dream for the highly-charged performances but jars uneasily with the murkier aspects of Brown’s life Taylor attempts to tackle, which is perhaps why he spends so few times in those moments. It does occasionally feel it needs Scroobius Pip quoted in its general direction (“…just a band”) but at least these flaws may be logically solved by the device of Brown addressing the camera: it’s his story and he’ll tell it how he wishes; with him at the centre.

Donnchadh Tiernan


12A (See IFCO for details)

138 minutes

Get On Up is released 21st November 2014

Get On Up – Official Website



The Drop


DIR: Michaël R. Roskam • WRI: Dennis Lehane • PRO: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Mike Larocca • DOP: Nicolas Karakatsanis • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Thérèse DePrez • MUS: Marco Beltrami, Raf Keunen • CAST: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Elizabeth Rodriguez, James Gandolfini

A screen flickers to life with nothing on the soundtrack but the sickly drip of water and the buzz of urban indifference to adorn the faded in shot of an alley we’d rather not be in. Various silhouetted figures stumble through the cold, bundled up well and breathing intermittently, their foggy discharges adding to the impending sense of dampness filling the screening room. One figure halts, disturbed into curiosity by a noise they’ve heard in a nearby bin. They investigate. They always investigate. Welcome to (Dennis) Lehane-ville, home of blue-collar noir for the 21st century.

There is no genre so much as noir that one may develop a story in provided a few dynamics are in place, regardless of era or location. Noir films tend to be set in worlds a few streets wide where nobody aids police investigations and nobody has nothing to worry about. They tend to progress towards revealing a series of murky secrets and so it is appropriate as a viewer to trust no one. They will eventually pit you as the star prize in a cock fight between two devils, one you’ll know and one you won’t. There are never markedly unknowable plot points in the noir-genre and as such it is the music made as murky motivations twang off hopefully engaging characters that these stories rely upon most.

Along these lines Michael R. Roskam’s The Drop fairs reasonably well. The disturbed silhouette from the opening frame is Tom Hardy’s seemingly simple barman, the noise he’s heard is an abused dog whose been thrown in the bin, Rocco, who’ll soon function as MacGuffin and symbol simultaneously. He finds the dog in Noomi Rapace’s rubbish and he argues over what to do with it with his Uncle Marv, who’s James Galdolfini back from the dead once more and not doing a great deal more than he did in New Jersey for HBO for almost a decade. The sense of impending doom is set in motion by the Czechian gangsters who run a bookies through Marv’s former bar, which gets robbed at the start and whose responsibility transpires to be more of a multi-layered question than you’d expect, except perhaps if you were aware you were watching a Dennis Lehane noir film.

I’m referring to the film in a tone that would suggest it will not surprise you and in a certain sense of the word that is true. There are a couple of twists in store in the third act and at least one eureka air-puncher moment but for the most part this is business as usual.

The film’s greatest strengths are in the acting, the script and the thematic symbol of the dog (if you think about it). The performances are great across the board though particular credit should fall at the feet of Hardy who does a great Rocky and Matthias Schoenaerts who does a great bastard. The dialogue, however colloquial the delivery, is as sharp as one would expect from an author of Lehane’s stature, and for once the inclusion of a dog as a major story-point doesn’t give cause for foreheads to whack palms. The film’s greatest weakness is that it doesn’t demand a cinema visit of the audience and doesn’t strive to stand out from the standard fair of rain-soaked detective fiction. The Drop is good pulpy, crime fiction of the sort there’s never a shortage of.

Worth a watch for a fan of anyone involved, strangers to the cause might save their allowance this week.

Donnchadh Tiernan


15A (See IFCO for details)

106 minutes

The Drop is released 14th November 2014

The Drop – Official Website