First things first; this is not a documentary. It's more of a surrealist meditation on how the sociopolitical and geographical climate of Western Washington helped shape a rock 'n' roll icon. Thanks to hours of unused audio interviews conducted by Nirvana's official biographer, Michael Azerrad (for 1993's Come as You Are), Cobain narrates the film, but we never see his face. Instead, he describes the ugliness of being a teenager in the soggy timber town of Aberdeen while director A.J. Schnack illustrates it with gorgeous, somber scenes of the region today. We follow Cobain in this same manner as he meets fellow Olympic Peninsula punks the Melvins, hangs out with Evergreen slackers in Olympia, signs with Sub Pop, and hears one of his songs, "Love Buzz," on KCMU for the first time. All along, Schnack (who previously profiled They Might Be Giants in Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns) gives us portraits of the present-day Pacific Northwest, from the dense and dark woods to the steel-and-glass skyscrapers. Two very important things separate About a Son from most of the post-suicide material on Cobain. First, it was made in part by someone who spent time with him (Azerrad). Second, it's one of the few to try and understand where he was from, and why that made him who he was.
Runs Fri., Oct. 12–Thurs., Oct. 18, at Varsity. Not rated. 97 minutes.
NOTE: Biographer Michael Azerrad and pioneering grunge photographer Charles Peterson will conduct a Q&A following the Friday 7:10 p.m. screening. Following the Saturday 7:10 p.m. screening, Azerrad will appear with musician and record producer Steve Fisk.