March 21, 2005

MOVIES: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)

When Berlinger and Sinofsky signed on to do this film, it was going to be just another "making of the album" flick, but the two years they spent with metal legends Metallica proved to be far more turbulent and unpredictable than that.

Just before filming began, the band's bass player quit, which sent the rest of the band into a sort of group therapy, trying to figure out what had happened and why none of them seemed to be having as much fun making music anymore.

A few months later, the lead singer went into alcohol rehab for 5 or 6 months, and stayed out of touch with the band for so long after his treatment that they began to wonder if he planned on ever coming back. When he finally did return, his recovery process meant that he was on a strict schedule, limited to four hours a day of work. Given Metallica's usual creative process -- long improvisational jam sessions, later waded through in search of fragments or ideas that could be expanded into songs -- his limited schedule was particularly problematic.

Meanwhile, the drummer becomes, in his own words, "the most hated man in rock and roll" for his role as the frontman in Metallica's lawsuit against Napster.

The most interesting stuff in the movie comes in the last half hour, as the band finally gets around to choosing a new bass player (their manager had filled in for the last two years of recording sessions), and deals with its therapist, who seems to think that he's going to be with Metallica on a long-term basis.

But ultimately, I didn't have much sympathy for these guys. They're all rich men, doing what they most love in life, and in the face of that, the problems they're dealing with here seem relatively petty and insignificant. It's a bit hard to care about the minor problems that keep their lives from being completely perfect. (The exception, of course, is the alcoholism, which really is a major problem; unfortunately for the movie, but understandably given the nature of the recovery process, most of that particular story plays out offscreen.)

If you're a Metallica fan, this will all be absolutely fascinating, I'm sure; if you're not, it'll be significantly less so (and you'll have to find some way to endure two hours of Metallica music).

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