Released: 2011, Mongrel Media
There doesn’t seem to be a specific reason for the resent surge in the popularity of Motorhead. Sure another mile-stone anniversary has passed, the new album is selling better than the last few, the movie came out, but I can’t put my finger on why now as compared to five years ago or ten years ago? I suppose the movie has spiked sales of the new album. I’d be curious to see if the band can maintain the momentum or of this will be the conclusion of a long career for the band. Either way, due to all the Lemmy hype in recent months, I’ll pile on the band-wagon and this month (April 2011) I’ll review the Lemmy movie (the North American DVD) and his 2002 autobiography. Feel free to check out the companion book review of WHITE LINE FEVER this month as well.
I’ll state my bias upfront. I’m not the world’s biggest Motorhead fan. I got into the band in the early 90’s, missing the so-called glory years. I also haven’t succumbed to the (somewhat unjustified) cult of personality that surrounds Lemmy. I like the band, Lemmy seems cool but I’m not a gushing fan-boy. Accordingly, I watched the movie with a fairly impartial view and to be honest it’s not that great.
The movie is well shot, and clocks in at just about 2 hours. The North America version (aka the Ultimate Badass Edition) comes with just over 3 hours of bonus features spread across 15 segments. There is no booklet in the DVD. The movie itself is average. It lacks cohesion and any sort of narrative. It’s not really linear and only vaguely chronological. I’m not sure how the ultra-diehard fan will approach this film. It is pretty short on information about Lemmy and Motorhead. For example, the pictures in the film, about his early days were already published in his autobiography. He seems a bit reserved and the film lacks the trivia that the die-hards might have wanted. It seems scattered, just a collection of people saying nice things about him.
On the other hand it is a really intimate look at his life. The lack of technical detail and facts about his personal life are made up for by the very detailed look at his life-style, his home, his hobbies, the tour bus and so on. It seems at times that Lemmy is a sad, tired, lonely old man just smoking, drinking, living in virtual squalor and spending his time playing VLT machines. If he wasn’t a ‘rock star’ he would likely be just the average-joe who lives the same lifestyle who might be the target of contempt, wasting away in his local pub playing VLT’s. However, it shows that he is grounded and that is the appealing connection to the common man, he is an average joe, just with a really cool job. Instead of being a dry-waller, he’s a rocker. It gets dull at times. Here's Lemmy in a bar. Here's Lemmy in a Limo. Here's Lemmy at home playing video games. etc. It goes on and on!
The movie was at times annoying, with an endless parades of special guests, musicians, athletes and actors praising him to the end of the earth. Some of these people have their tongues buried so far up his ass it’s embarrassing, even for Lemmy. It’s clear he is at times uncomfortable with all the adulation. He doesn’t seem like the guy to tolerate fools and that comes across at times.
Another failing of the movie is the virtual lack of discussion about music. Yes, it is about Lemmy and his lifestyle, and we know it’s not a movie about Motorhead, but the two are inextricably linked, and music gets the shaft. Even the film’s soundtrack ignores every Motorhead song from the past 20 years. Sure it’s nice to hear the classics but it seems to me the producers weren’t really interested in songs, lyrics, production, or even the other dudes in the band. The goal was an unfiltered view of his life (not a biography or a look at his career) and in that sense it succeeded admirably. The film probably could have been about 30 minutes shorter. The Rockin’ Vicars stuff was neat to see and the little bits of Hawkwind stuff were neat as well.
The bonus features are where the value lies in the film. There are looks at the early days of Motorhead, segments on the Fans, the Roadcrew, Mikkey and Phil, extended interviews and outakes. These features really brought the film to life for me. The interview with the Directors/Producers demonstrated the challenges they had in making the film and provided some interesting insight to the process.
The definitive movie about Motorhead (the band) has yet to be made. Unfortunately perhaps because the filmmakers decided to focus strictly on Lemmy, they have taken the wind out of the sails of any potential future project that might try to do the band justice. The whole film had a vague teary-eyed nostalgic feel to it, ignoring most of the accomplishments and music of Motorhead over the past 20 years. I enjoyed it, it’s a good introduction for non-fans (or casual Motorhead fans) to an iconic rock character but the film could have been much more. The movie gets 2.5, the bonus stuff gets 3.5 so we will call it a three out of five.