Sunday, August 29, 2004

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Man, do I feel left out. Have there always been this many good documentaries around? Because it seems new to me. And Some Kind of Monster is the best of the bunch. In 2001, Metallica invited Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (together they made the Paradise Lost films; alone, Joe made Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, for which he is now forgiven) to document the process of recording their new album. They thought it would be interesting -- operating minus a key player (longtime bassist Jason Newsted had just left the group), Metallica decided to start recording without a safety net, in uncomfortable surroundings, with no prepared songs or lyrics, to let all their emotions flow straight into the music. Unfortunately, those emotions turned inward and very nearly tore the group apart. So what began as a unique but fun exercise -- not unlike Metallica: A Year and a Half in the Life of..., an Essential I'll review one day -- evolved into an epic tragedy about fear, insecurity, and anger. Lots and lots of anger (that the completed album would eventually be titled St. Anger is all-too fitting). Guided by group therapist Phil Towne, the band and collaborator/producer Bob Rock confront one another in a series of increasingly bitter conversations, releasing demons and long-held frustrations: when frontman James Hetfield, fresh from rehab and confined to a limited work schedule, complains about a lack of control in the band's decisions, guitarist Kirk Hammett snaps back, "Now you know how I've felt for the last fifteen years." While non-Metallicats are raving about this film, it's truly a treat for fans of the group, watching the creative process develop -- snatches of random conversation that wind up as song lyrics, the aborted ideas that never made it to record. But no matter your opinion on Metallica beforehand, I dare you not to be moved by the conclusion, when the band joyously takes the stage (to that stirring score from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) as a complete unit again. Monster is a must-see triumph that cannot be missed.

Rating: *****

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