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Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Some Kind of Monster", Metallica goes to therapy

Some Kind of Monster

I'm not into heavy metal/hard rock music, so is not surprise I have never liked Metallica. Well, it is much worse than that. I hate Metallica. They ever-present bombastic poses, combined with James Hetfield voice, particularly annoying to me (how he ends every phrase, damn it), and of course their brutal success when I was a teenager (I was such a "weirdo" cause I didn't get "Nothing Else Matters", I still can't) made my relation with the band an excruciating one (drummer Lars Ulrich didn't help a bit with his crusade against Napster either). But I guess time has relaxed my belligerency against the group, so I admit I was curious enough to watch this highly praised rockumentary.

It's pretty amazing that Metallica, as well as each one of its individuals, allowed the documentary crew to be ever-present during almost two years, from 2001 to 2003, in which they were supposed to record a new album. But the film quickly shows that this is not only about what would become "St. Anger", their eighth studio album, but an unexpectedly deep insight of very turbulent times. Don't expect much grandeur and enjoyment for making music. Metallica fans, don't expect a pretty, flattering portray of your heroes. Instead, you'll find some misery and fights against each other.

Because "Some Kind of Monster" (what a suitable name for the film)  is about the clash of the different personalities of the band members and the psychological dynamics of the band. And their exposure is, sometimes, brutal. For a while, a long while during the documentary, seems you are watching what should be the private breakdown of Metallica. Their members are evidently burnt-out, and is hard for the audience to see there's a real interest in creating new music. We see how they decide to hire a therapist to help them control an deal with the arising tensions, specially between Hetfield and Ulrich.

There's too much "shit" (sorry for that) floating around Metallica. How they fired former bassist, Jason Newsted, the ego clashes between the two leaders of the band, a producer that is incapable of mediating, the self-indulgence of a band that has become "too big", the conciliation with their new family lives with rock and roll lifestyle, Napster, addictions...  They all appear in the form of poignant scenes. The lack of enthusiasm for playing music or even practicing is obvious. But somehow, they are rebelling against giving up. "Some Kind of Monster" reveals itself as the documentary of a therapy. It looks like a torture many times (the scene with Dave Mustaine, leader of  Megadeth, is so disturbingly shocking), but they finally go somewhere (credit Robert Trujillo as an important factor too). Its a process of survival, self-knowledge and pain.

There a few but important concerns to be made. One is the excessive length of the film. Its understandable that with some many hours filmed, directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky had tones of material to work with. But considering most of the documentary takes place at the studio, the movie suffers from being too long (maybe fans won't say so). And directly linked with that amount of material, I have the feeling there are some very sharp transitions during the movie. My guess is the band, despite showing so much, exposing so much themselves, put some limits. Flashbacks into the past of the band are not really justified, the open fight between Hetfield and Ulrich, or with the therapist, are not resolved on screen. The Mustaine and Newsted's affairs as well remain there too. Many "situations" are presented but never fully developed.

Overall, "Some Kind of Monster" is a very powerful, at times absolutely striking, rockumentary about one of the biggest bands of the last thirty years, in their lowest moment. Fans absolutely HAVE to see it, but even people who doesn't care about music would find this film interesting. Rock stars are as petty, complex and vulnerable as everyone else. Praise the members of Metallica for being so brave to expose themselves as human beings.

SCORE: 6,75/10

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