Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey has us thinking about other “inside the band” documentaries.
Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster (2004)
Between suing Napster and releasing ReLoad, Metallica hadn’t done much to endear itself to fans by the time Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s documentary Some Kind Of Monster was released in 2004. But once the embattled band members sign on with “performance coach” Phil Towle, they become not just sympathetic, but oddly endearing. Manufactured moniker notwithstanding, Towle functionally serves the familiar but decidedly un-metal role of couples’ counselor, ministering to the rocky creative marriage of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, with guitarist Kirk Hammett as the embattled elder child. (“Son, your drummer and I are going to be living apart for a little while.”) Before long, Ulrich is engaging in mirroring exercises, starting sentences with “What I hear you saying is…”
Metallica isn’t the first high-profile arena-rock band to request therapeutic intervention; Towle also worked with Rage Against The Machine. But the fact that the group’s near-breakup and what’s presented as creative revitalization plays out in front of a camera crew—one initially hired to produce a piece of promotional fluff—is singularly evocative of the zeitgeist, where personal conflict can be the most powerful marketing tool. Berlinger and Sinofsky, whose relationship with Metallica goes back to the filmmakers’ landmark 1996 documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills, channeled their own stormy partnership into Monster, resulting in a film whose effectiveness is matched only by the oddity of its existence. They craft a redemption narrative so compelling, it almost sells St. Anger as a creative renaissance. Sadly, they can’t be present every time someone puts the album on.
Availability: The DVD is currently available for a bracing $30, but it can be picked up digitally at a third of the cost, and it’s still floating around Netflix.