Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

The fans will have their tickets already, but if all you know or care about Metallica could be written on the edge of a plectrum, then you might be surprised to discover that this two-hour-plus documentary about the current gods of heavy metal proves to be one of the most intriguing, unexpected and revealing films of the year. A massive live draw, these guys have sold ninety million records, and can thus afford to do whatever they want, which tends to be very revealing of individual psychology. They’re also, however, under
increasing pressure to come up with the goods, since they haven’t produced any original material in years and a high-profile spat with Napster over illegal downloading has seriously dented their street-cred.
Founder members and twin creative poles, vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich have years on the clock together, and battle for control in the studio soon commences, insinuating passive-aggression bouncing off the walls while guitarist Kirk Hammett keeps his head down. That the trio have their own $40 000 a month performance psychiatrist (with his own controlling agenda, of course) somehow comes as no surprise— nor does the lengthy hiatus in recording while Hetfield is treated for alcohol abuse. After
on-camera discussions about whether they should continue filming, directors Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger hang in there, tallying the studio time in terms of years, capturing an ongoing struggle for sanity and self-expression that’s more group-therapy session than Spinal Tap. It’s about men, about ego and the fear of not being good enough, about rediscovering the thrill of rocking out even though you’re no longer that hungry kid who started out jamming in your garage decades before. The ‘rockumentary’ redefined, in effect. Unmissable.— Trevor Johnston. (U.S.A., 2004. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 160 mins.)
Red Lights (Feux rouges)
September 24- 30; October 4 -10
With L’Ennui, his philosophical tale of amour fou, and Roberto Succo, a truly disturbing serial killer picture, Cedric Kahn is already established in the front rank of current French filmmakers. This tense, assured Georges Simenon adaptation keeps him there. In a road-movie-as-nightmare, a bickering married couple prepare to take to the autoroute during the annual summer exodus from Paris, southbound to pick up their kids from camp. The balance of power clearly lies with the imperiously elegant Carole Bouquet, an executive who’s the household’s main breadwinner, rather than Jean-Pierre Darroussin, her working stiff of a hubby, who’s had a hard time staying on the wagon and isn’t allowed to forget it.
Simmering tensions reach boiling point out on the road, as he makes a series of illicit alcoholic pit-stops to calm his nerves at the expense of his driving skills. Until, that is, he staggers out of one establishment in the middle of nowhere to find . . .
It would be unfair to give anything else away. Suffice to say that Darroussin’s evening is about to get a lot worse, what with reports of an escaped killer on the loose. Kahn excels at slowly tightening the knot as the suspense builds, but it’s rooted in a psychological dilemma familiar from all our relationships—that we sacrifice our freedoms for the sake of our loved ones without completely shaking the desire to cut loose. Some will read more ambiguity into the ending than others, but the meat of the movie is out there on the highways and byways, where the extraordinary use of Debussy’s orchestral music adds to the feverish anxiety.—Trevor Johnston. (France, 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.)

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