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:: Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster

After sell out screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) this year, Dendy Films has given "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” general release. One of the films making up the resurgence in the rockumentary over the last few years, including the Ramones and Asian Dub Foundation documentaries at MIFF this year and following on from the success of “24 Hour Party People” at the 2002 festival, “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” is likely to appeal not only to Metallica fans but music aficionado’s alike.

The creators of the film, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are best known for their 1996 film “Paradise Lost”, a documentary about three American teenagers convicted of a triple homicide in Arkansas in 1993, which garnered international critical acclaim and brought about the first collaboration between the filmmakers and Metallica. At the time of the murders, public debate raged as to the supposed link between the murders and the teenagers’ love of heavy metal music. After seeing a rough cut of the documentary, Metallica not only agreed to license their music to be used in a feature film for the first time, but refused to charge for it.

Art versus commerce crunch time came again for the filmmakers during the making of this documentary, when Elektra, Metallica’s record label who co-owned the film wanted to cut the making of it short. The record label wanted to expedite the film’s release to coincide with that of the album, in order to maximise sales. Metallica stepped in yet again. After seeing a rough cut of the film, they bought out Elektra’s interest and told the filmmakers to take as long as they needed to tell the story right. This is remarkable, not only for the fiscal generosity involved, but given that the film often depicts the band members at moments of pure egotistical wankerdom, the generosity of spirit is extraordinary.

It is with this in mind that you approach “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and the behind the scenes revelations it holds, into not only the members of the band individually, but the multi-million dollar corporate machine behind them. If this had just been a documentary about the making of a studio album, then it is likely that its appeal would have been very limited in scope. The fact that filming commenced at the start of the recording of the first studio album by Metallica in 5 years, a band who had sold over 90 million albums worldwide, just as their bass player, Jason Newstead who had been with the band for over 15 years quits, you know there is going to be a story to be told. When the band’s management, in a last ditch attempt to keep the band from falling apart, suggest that they start group therapy with performance enhancing coach Phil Towle, you know that not only is there going to be a story to be told.

The charm of the film lies in all the off the cuff comments made by one or other of the band mates, captured over the course of 2 years and condensed from 1600 hours of footage to a film just over 2 hours in length. Highlights include: a pre-rehab James Hetfield (vocals, guitar) somehow managing to argue that his priority in life is his family while in the same sentence explaining how he missed his son’s first birthday to go bear hunting. He attempts to explain to an unbemused Lars Ulrich that after disappearing into rehab for an entire year, his new work schedule will only be between noon to four on weekdays and that he doesn’t want anyone discussing band matters outside of those times. And last but definitely not least witnessing the only time the usually very restrained and accommodating Kirk Hammett (guitar) get fired up when Hetfield and Ulrich dare to suggest that his guitar solos may be getting a bit dated.

What “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” ends up revealing is that just because they are one of the biggest selling bands of all time, they are no different to garage bands the world over. Except that, instead of arguing over whose turn it is to buy a round of beers, they argue over whether they are ready to let go of their therapist who is costing them US $40,000 per month.