Keith Richards has complained that if he and Mick Jagger were black bluesmen in Chicago, no one would give them grief about continuing to perform at their age. Indeed, rock and roll, like Romantic poetry, is a young man's game: Old rockers usually invite contempt, such as Kurt Cobain's prophetic sneer, "Hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend."
But at least rockers like Cobain, Townshend, Jagger and Richards are taken seriously by the gatekeepers of respectable popular culture. The members of Metallica--the biggest-selling metal band of all time--have to confront a bigger problem as they age: How can a never-fashionable aesthetic built on expressing the rage of outcast adolescents ever grow up?
In Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger's Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, we see the band's members, particularly singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, struggling with the onset of middle-age. The excesses of their youth--which fueled their music and earned them the sobriquet "Alcoholica"--are now laying waste to their lives in the form of substance abuse problems, marital strife and intra-band rivalries.
Initially, the filmmakers were on hand to shoot a fairly straightforward DVD documentary of the band's recording of their 2003 album St. Anger. But when Hetfield abruptly entered rehab, Sinofsky and Berlinger found themselves making a very different and much more exciting film. In Hetfield's absence, Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett entered group therapy, which they allowed the filmmakers to record.
After Metallica: Some Kind of Monster screened at Full Frame in April, audience members were treated to a dressing-down by Berlinger, who snapped at us, "There was too much laughing," and bristled at the inevitable Spinal Tap comparisons.
It's too bad he felt that way, because in truth, the sight of aging metalheads fumbling through the language of psychotherapy can be as funny as it sounds, but it's also as moving as Berlinger hopes it is. When we see the film's brief clips of their reckless, thrilling and out-of-control 1980s heyday, we can see where they've been and marvel at their courage in learning to embrace middle age.
Showing at the Colony Theatre in Raleigh and Durham's Carolina Theatre.