METAL: A HEADBANGER'S JOURNEY
Anthropologist and heavy metal fanatic Sam Dunn wants to find out why heavy metal music has been stereotyped, dismissed and denounced and why it has remained the obsession of millions of fans around the world despite such condemnation. Sam's quest leads him to London for a debate on the genre's origins, to Germany for some drunken revelry at the Wacken music festival, and to Norway to pursue the darker, satanic aspects of the genre. Sam interviews metal greats like Dee Snider and Vince Neil, finding fragments of an answer. The audience is treated to a wealth of informative factoids from these lively dialogues. We learn that Gene Simmons has a fetish for patents, groupies are actually empowered and empowering women, and if Wagner had been born today, he would have been in Led Zeppelin.
Review by Joel Meares:
You may be surprised to discover that Al Gore is featuring in two documentaries released in Australia this year. In one, he reveals an inconvenient truth, while here, he and wife Tipper reveal themselves quite the inconvenience to director Sam Dunn. Tipper in particular, with her Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), is the enemy of Dunn's film, the denunciator and stereotype-generator he wishes to disprove. Heavy metal, for its detractors, is the work of the devil, and a dark influence on young Americans. It is difficult not to see Tipper's point, particularly when a Norwegian rocker looks down the camera and cites Satan as the reason he makes music. However, Dunn manages, for the most part, to assemble such a charming and accessible motley crew of interviewees that personality trumps argument, and heavy metal comes up looking mostly harmless.
Of course, the success of Dunn's film in support of heavy metal music might be the result of not offering the audience too much music. Wisely or unwisely (depending on whether you agree metal's influence is Beethoven or a waiter dropping a stack of plates), Dunn shows his heroes talking more than singing. The documentary is literally a string of interviews, and very little else. Thankfully, most of the subjects are articulate, passionate and often hilarious. Dee Snider of Twisted Sister offers a hilarious insight into what he was thinking at a hearing with the PMRC in which he orchestrated his scruffy appearance to compound the shock of the eloquent speech he had prepared. Lyrics, he argues, are open to interpretation. Tipper must have a dirty mind to be interpreting the lyrics the way she does.
Still, Dunn is not too carried away with his love of the genre to offer a completely unbalanced perspective. He is shocked by the attitude of the Norwegian rockers, who support the burning down of historical churches. The film lacks some discipline in structure - the chapters neither lead nor follow from each other - and there is nothing particularly innovative in its style. Regardless, Sam Dunn has an infectious charm and enthusiasm, a balanced eye and the luck of having a great cast to interview. Whether you're a Gore man or a Dunn man, there is a lot to enjoy and discover in Metal; it's quite the field trip.
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METAL: A HEADBANGER'S JOURNEY (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Tom Araya, Alice Cooper, Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Zombie and many more
PRODUCER: Sam Dunn, Scot McFayden
DIRECTOR: Sam Dunn, Scot McFayden & Jessica Joy Wise
SCRIPT: Sam Dunn, Scot McFayden & Jessica Joy Wise
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brendan Steacy
EDITOR: Mike Munn
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kenneth Mak
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 16, 2006