My July 2011 film column for Maximum Rock N Roll. Originally appeared in issue 338.
IF YOU LIKE TO GAMBLE, I TELL YOU I'M YOUR MAN
Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister has played in the band Motorhead since 1975. Lemmy is a documentary about him. The film takes the approach of simply following Lemmy around for a few years. What he does, you get to see. I hope the experience is enjoyable for fans, but to me it's not always as much fun as I would think it would be. Lemmy is currently living in Los Angeles. When he is not on tour, he hangs out at the Rainbow Bar and Grill drinking and playing a video gambling machine. Occasionally he goes to the studio to play music or has a gig.
This footage is interspersed with a bit of history about Lemmy's musical career. This is more interesting, but it is short and too much seems to be left out. Lemmy started playing with The Rockin' Vickers, but while the band was satisfied with successfully playing around their hometown, Lemmy wanted to go to London. He did. He worked as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and later joined Hawkwind. His Hawkwind band mates recall always having to wait for him in hotel lobbies. When he was arrested in Canada for drugs, Hawkwind fired him. Then he forms Motorhead, the band's name taken from the title of the last song he wrote for Hawkwind.
At one point in Lemmy the interviewer asks Lemmy why he hasn't moved. Lemmy laments that he pays nine hundred dollars for his apartment and wouldn't be able to find another place for that price. I momentarily feel a little sad for Lemmy thinking he has money problems until he begins showing off his collections of Nazi memorabilia and knives. In one room the knives completely cover the wall and there are many others in cases. It is quite a collection, but it makes sense why he doesn't have the money afford a nicer apartment. It is also notable that the knife room is very organized unlike the room he hangs out in while being interviewed which has garbage every where.
The main problem with Lemmy is that the movie is too long. But I also feel the same way about Motorhead songs. (While I was finishing writing this Motorhead's "Killed By Death" came on the radio. Synchronicity.)
I did not have any interest in seeing The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Morgan Spurlock is usually entertaining, but you pretty much know what the outcome of his documentary will be before you see the film. In Super Size Me he gains weight and becomes unhealthy after eating at McDonald's every day for a month. It is fascinating to watch Spurlock's decline on screen and to have visual evidence of how unhealthy fast food is, but after the film is over you kind of shrug. The result is what you would expect. It is not very satisfying, kind of like actually eating fast food.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold focuses on product placement in movies. Spurlock's idea is to fund his documentary entirely by product placement. Product placement already annoys me so why would I want to sit through a whole movie about it that unavoidably will also feature lots of it? The Greatest Movie Ever Sold does feature a lot of it, but it also gets into a lot of the behind the scenes negotiations that happen. It is not as simple as put my product in your movie, here's some money.
The companies make demands on Spurlock. If Pom Wonderful signs on Spurlock is not allowed to be seen drinking any other beverages, he must do a certain number of interviews to promote the film, there must be a specific amount of ads for the film, etc. Jetblue wants him to conduct an interview on one of their airplanes. Not surprisingly once Spurlock begins to get a few companies to commit to his film, more come looking for him. Of course, he has fun with all this while he is trying to make his point. Though he does begin to wonder if he will be able to make the movie his way.
Spurlock interviews all sorts of people related to the issue. He talks with filmmakers, movie company executives, advertising executives, professors, experts, bands and Ralph Nader. He also travels to São Paulo where the government has banned all forms of advertising. There are no billboards or ads on taxicabs. It looks really nice.
Things get a little convoluted when Spurlock looks into advertising through local schools. The school district he looks at sells advertising on buses, banners hanging on the fences around the sports field and ads on a television news program produced to be shown in schools. The school is not able to accept just any advertising. Students have to be marketed to in certain ways. All this is just so wrong. You can't help but think that the school could use the couple of million Spurlock raised to make this film. At least he ends up advertising it on the school bus and on a banner.
The line that cracks me up in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is when some ad exec tells Spurlock "you're not selling out, you're buying in." It even ends up getting used as the tagline for the film. I can't wait until some band uses that on me to justify their latest corporate deal.
To end things on a more upbeat note this month is Queen To Play (Joueuse). Hélène is a maid at Corsican hotel. One day when making up a room she observes the room's occupants while they play chess. The couple plays the game as if it is foreplay. Hélène becomes obsessed with both the woman and chess. After she buys her husband a chess set for his birthday and he is understandably confused by the gift, Hélène begins to teach herself to play.
After learning the basics of the game, Hélène's obsession grows. She begins to see chess in everything she does. While cleaning the house of Dr. Kroger she discovers he has a chess set. She convinces him to teach her the game. Fortunately, Dr. Kroger knows the game well. Hélène begins to neglect work and her family only focusing on chess.
Queen To Play is a simple film, but the characters are very appealing. It is slow moving though justifiably so. Chess is not a high action game. You need time to think.
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I am always looking for films to review. If you made one, send a copy to Carolyn Keddy, PO Box 460402, San Francisco, CA 94146-0402. If your film is playing in the San Francisco Bay Area, let me know at email@example.com. I will go see it.