To the uninitiated, the man at the center of this documentary -- Lemmy Kilmister, the longtime frontman and bassist for Motörhead -- may seem ridiculous: a mumbling, chain-smoking senior citizen dressed like a biker-cowboy and holed up in his low-rent (literally!) Hollywood apartment. (It's like Hoarders: The Heavy Metal/Nazi Memorabilia/Pizza Box Episode.)
But by the end of Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski's admittedly hagiographic bio-pic, ya gotta love Lemmy. They don't make indestructible, iconoclastic rock 'n' roll characters like this anymore. His five-decade career spans post-Beatles pop and prog-rock to godfathering heavy metal in the late '70s, and still playing today. (Metal fans from the '80s and '90s rightly worship at Lemmy's altar, but the older heads remember that Motörhead was the rare longhaired band that punks dug, too.)
The filmmakers follow Lemmy around, on journeys large (playing Moscow), small (spritzing himself with Chanel cologne in his cramped bathroom) and bizarre (riding a restored WWII German tank). For a second opinion, they interview associates; bands that followed (Metallica, Foo Fighters, New Order); fans; and bartenders. Many have hilarious reminiscences, but all adore Lemmy. Ultimately, these nuggets flesh out a portrait of the surprisingly gracious rebel, the man who never compromised. The film even catches the emotionally guarded Lemmy in a few moments of openness.
His wildest days are likely behind him -- former Hawkwind bandmates recount Spinal Tap-worthy anecdotes -- yet Lemmy seems remarkably grounded, while still cheerfully indulging in Jack-and-Coke, speed and slot machines. Lemmy was seemingly born only to rock, drink, play video games and patiently sign autographs, and he's lucky to have found the gig.
This is a must for metal fans, but for others, Lemmy stands as an engaging portrait of a singular music-biz character, with more truths, entertainment, heart and laughs than anything on the radio today. Starts Fri., Feb. 4, through Sun., Feb. 6. Harris