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Fri July 9, 2004
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
We are left with a business partnership reviving its product.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The debate over whether or not Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" should be called a "documentary" won't be heard hovering around Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's ("Brother's Keeper," "Paradise Lost") "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" because it is a documentary, an accurate rendering of the rock group's long struggle to create its latest album, "St. Anger." Although sex and drugs play no role in the film and the groupie adulation is almost non present, making even the most out-of touch viewer skeptical, the battle of frontman James Hetfield with alcohol and the group with dysfunction has the feel of authenticity. We are left with a business partnership reviving its product.
By engaging "performance-enhancement coach" Phil Towle for $40,000 a month, Metallica puts its money where its mouth is--a serious effort to preserve the magic of a group that sold 90 million albums, so much a product of delicate personality bonding that the full time therapist had a real challenge to preserve the indefinable chemistry. Beside Hetfield's demons, drummer Lars Ulrich's Napster battle takes energy from the group, so Towle is probably a small investment in its survival. If heavy metal is not your thing, seeing this group psychodrama would be worth the admission.
Not seeming to fit the overall clinical activity of the film is a scene of Ulrich selling his art collection. Critic Ed Gonzalez gives an insightful explanation:
"There's a moment in the film where Berlinger and Sinofsky force a fascinating correlation between the paintings that hang in Ulrich's home and the music the band makes, calling attention to the relationship between art and the spectator and the way that art is consumed. This scene has absolutely nothing to do with the psych sessions between Metallica and Towle, and it's a great one."
This kind of organic unity makes it a documentary of artful proportions. I still prefer classical and folk music, but I have to admit to a new interest in a musical genre I can share with my musician grandson Cody.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.