The cover says "49% Motherfucker. 51% Son of a Bitch". It's talking about a certain Lemmy Kilmister, the greatest front-man's name fittingly attached to one of heavy metal's bona-fide living legends and the incomparable lead singer of rock behemoths Motorhead, who, despite ageing disgracefully are still at the top of their game.
This documentary, released yesterday on Blu-ray and DVD - a loving portrait at the music legend- boasts a stellar cast, all queuing up to lavish praise on the man and his band; from Metallica, Dave Grohl, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Jarvis Cocker, Joan Jett, Billy Bob Thornton, Slash, to pro wrestler Triple H, and members of The Clash, Guns N Roses, Jane's Addiction, and more, the film offers a rare and revealing look at Lemmy's life with candid at-home interviews, studio sessions, and priceless live concert footage. Read on for the full review...
Musicians make the best personal documentaries - they are usually eccentric, always flamboyant in some manner and fundamentally irresistibly watchable. Why else would we shell out hundreds and hundreds of pounds to see them live in concert? Rock musicians in particular tend to offer the best subject matter to play with, given their usually enormous capacity for bad behaviour and heavy substance abuse. And king of the rockers has to be Lemmy, making him about as good a documentary subject as they come.
Directed by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, the film claims to reveal Lemmy as never seen before, but in truth the documentary is more confirmation of what the great man's fans have all already known for ever. He's the hellraiser - will go twice as hard, and twice as long as anyone else, and his dedication to partying is only matched by his unfailing dedication to his profession - no amount of drugs or drink have ever stood in the way of his performances. Sure, there's a lot of advancing of Lemmy's mythology going on, but it's difficult to doubt that any of the anecdotes are true, or that Lemmy really buys into his own myth (at one point he says he doesn't want to advertise drug use to kids).
The man himself is hugely charismatic and likeable, his presence makes the various identi-kit sycophants interviewing him look entirely ridiculous, but as testament to his professionalism, Lemmy never lets on that he knows they are, or that he's been asked the same lame questions perpetually for decades and decades. To see him in interview mode, and then just a few scenes later talking with fellow musicians about scoring acid for Hendrix, is great.At the end of the day, despite claims to being a new and fresh perspective on Lemmy (which it does admittedly achieve), the documentary is just an extended love letter to the great man, and what it boils down to is authorised sycophancy. Watching the near endless roll-call of mega-stars: Nikki Sixx, Billy Bob Thornton, Dave Navarro, Dave Grohl, Kat Von D, Slash, Lars Ulrich and Ozzy Osbourne - is great fun, and it's effectively like having your admiration for a hero authorised and justified by other idols. Like knowing the President digs your favourite cereal for the exact same reasons you do.
The other thing about these people endorsing Lemmy is that they are to a man or woman, entirely invested in what it is to be rock and roll, so they all talk with hugely entertaining ticks an idiosyncrasies- at one point during a doe-eyed tribute to his idol, Dave Grohl waxes lyrical, eloquently and elegantly about the nature of rock and roll and its appeal, and then justifies Lemmy's legend status by calling him "the baddest motherfucker in the world", as if the two arguments are the same.
But that's not to say this isn't entirely worth your attention and indeed it offers a lot that you wouldn't get to see without it, like Lemmy's boot-maker discussing his exact design specifications or the personal, uncensored anecdotes from people who obviously count themselves as his real friends. And it is wonderful to hear his various insights, recorded in what are obviously staged conversations but remain great to watch all the same, given that they are clearly unscripted.
At the final evaluation, if you're a fan of Motorhead, of Heavy Metal, or of excellent documentaries like Anvil that look at the characters behind the music, you need to see Lemmy.