Moriarty Sees METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER And Interviews Berlinger & Sinofsky!!
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
If you don’t know the names Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, then chances are you’re not a fan of the documentary form. These guys have been turning out amazing work for 12 or so years now, ever since they burst onto the scene with the disturbing and sad BROTHER’S KEEPER. Probably the best-known of their films so far is the PARADISE LOST series, a study of the controversy around the West Memphis Three. The first film was horrifying and one of the most infuriating portraits of a legal system choosing to be blind that I’ve ever seen, but the second film deepened and intensified the anguish by showing just how little progress had been made in the years since the first film’s release.
Joe Berlinger branched out into narrative features with his film BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS, which I regard as a sort of noble failure. The film tries to be an exploration of the way in which reality and fiction were becoming more and more entwined in film and on the internet, but I think it got hamstrung by a studio that wanted a normal, easy to digest horror film that they could sell. For the last few years, I’ve wondered if we were ever going to see a film from both of them together again, and now, finally, this weekend marks the limited release of METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER, a great rock movie and a great documentary, entertaining and illuminating, and a major event for any fan of these guys and their work.
To mark the occasion, I got to sit down with the two of them at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago. Berlinger’s a tightly wound guy with intense eyes, closely-cropped dark hair, and a salt-and-pepper beard and mustache. Sinofsky’s a little rounder, a little more relaxed in his demeanor, and the more immediately approachable of the two. Part of the fun of the interview was seeing how this filmmaking team played off of each other in a room and getting some sense of how they must be when they are putting together a project. When we sat down to talk, I hadn’t had a chance to see their new film yet, so the conversation was pretty much about the state of documentary films in general, their past work, and the future of their partnership:
Berlinger: Harry was one of the few people who gave BLAIR WITCH 2 a positive review.
Moriarty: He liked it. He still takes heat for it. He still defends it in conversation when it comes up.
Sinofsky: He’s the man!
Berlinger: That’s good to know. But somebody from Ain’t It Cool panned METALLICA at ShoWest.
Moriarty: Yeah, that was one of our readers, sending in a review. We’re very democratic.
Sinofsky: It was one of their field guys.
Berlinger: Well, that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.
Moriarty: First of all, it’s a pleasure to meet both of you. I’m a big fan of your work, all the way back to BROTHER’S KEEPER, which just blew my mind the first time I saw it. It’s such an intense film, such an intense experience. With PARADISE LOST, I heard you talking [with the interviewer before me] about gearing up to do the third one?
Sinofsky: Yeah, we finished negotiating a couple of weeks ago. We start soon.
Moriarty: That story seems to be ongoing, constantly evolving. Is that something you feel compelled to go back to because of your involvement in the first two pictures?
Berlinger: Honestly, this was an emotionally draining, grueling story that took so much out of us. It’s not a happy story. There are no winners. It’s not a part of the country that I particularly enjoy. There’s a lot of anti-Semetism and a lot of anti-“us”-ism. So from an emotional standpoint and even from a creative standpoint, retreading the same ground is not exciting. If there wasn’t a real person sitting on death row who needs assistance... and every time we do a film, it seems to help a little bit... because PARADISE LOST led to the creation of the West Memphis Three support group, which was the subject of PARADISE LOST 2, and then the support became international, and so whatever help Damien is getting is as a result of these films, so we feel an obligation. If it was a fictional thing, or if somebody’s life wasn’t on the line, there’s no way we would be doing another film. It’s strictly... it’s not as filmmakers... it’s more of a social endeavor.
Sinofsky: The second film, we had questions about... after we finished the first film, what disappointed us was that it never seemed to escape the entertainment pages. It never seemed to reach the editorial pages, and there wasn’t this huge outcry about this miscarriage of justice. So when the opportunity came to revisit, we jumped at it, not knowing what story we’d be able to tell, but we felt this obligation and responsibility to see if we could continue to help. So then another four years go by, and HBO is interested in doing the third one, and... look, I agree with Joe. If the risk wasn’t so high of an innocent man being put to death, we would hesitate.
Berlinger: It was very emotionally draining. We got death threats. We had to carry guns at one point, and if you knew us, you’d know how laughable that is. We are not gun people, but I went to bed with a gun under my pillow at one point. We were being followed by skinheads and getting death threats. “Get the fuck out of here, Jewboys.” That’s the kind of shit we were dealing with.
Sinofsky: I have nothing against Memphis. I love a good rib.
Berlinger: There’s a world of difference between Memphis and West Memphis. Also, I feel like PARADISE LOST and the making of PARADISE LOST sort of robbed me of my fatherly innocence, because my wife was pregnant while we were making the film, and while we were editing it, I had my first child. Sitting there at the editing bay, looking at... y’know, for the three minutes of really horrible body footage that’s in the film, we waded through hundreds of hours of...
Sinofsky: Hundreds of awful photographs and autopsy shots, seeing all the damage that was done.
Berlinger: We had to understand for ourselves what our theory was, and I remember driving home at night with all these images in my head and then going in and picking up my little baby girl and holding her in my arms while feeling like I had just stared into the abyss of evil. It really affected me. Just to go back to that place emotionally is not something I’m looking forward to.
Sinofsky: My oldest son, who’s going to be 21 in July, was eight when this took place, and there was a moment inside of the film where Melissa Byers, mother of Chris, kept his clothes...
Berlinger: It’s not in the film. I remember it, because as soon as it happened, we were like, “Why weren’t we shooting?”
Sinofsky: She held up his shirt and pants just to show how small he was. Alex, my son who’s in college, was the same age. So every time Alex does something... whether it’s first date, or driving a car the first time, or going off to college... I can imagine the pain of those three families, and every day, what they’re missing out on because of the deaths of those three kids. And every week, there’s some request. “Can we show these films at a benefit? Will you guys come to talk? What’s the story with these films?”
Berlinger: Every week, somebody either has a tape and wants permission to show it, or they want to borrow a tape. Most people are gracious enough to ask.
Sinofsky: They ask permission, and we always say yes. I was shooting a film in Memphis on Sun Records, and I would go visit some of the families in West Memphis, and it was always very, very difficult. I remember calling you one time, Joe, and saying, “I was just with Big Jesse, and I brought him a case of beer, and nothing’s changed.” It was just so disturbing. I didn’t like it. The emotion of being back was really very uncomfortable. And I imagine going back again and talking to these families again 12 years after the fact... it’s not gonna be easy. Some films it’s like, “Hey, we’re gonna be with Metallica. We’re gonna be with rock’n’roll stars.” This is very different. The idea of retracing those steps again and going back to the first film and parts of the second film and creating the third film... reliving those moments again.
Moriarty: So many of the documentaries that seem to be getting a lot of attention right now, I feel are, at their heart, fake. They’re stories where filmmakers walk into them with agendas. Whether it be SUPER-SIZE ME or Michael Moore’s film. And I’m disturbed by that trend.
Sinofsky: Very astute. You’re one of the few people on Earth who has said that.
Berlinger: One of the reasons [METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER] in particular feels so authentic is because it wasn’t planned. We went there to do a little promo video and then shit started happening and we had the courage to stick with it and they had the courage to stick with it.
Moriarty: At what point do you realize you have a story? When you’re researching material or when you’re deciding how you’re going to approach a film, when do you realize, “This is the story we’re telling and this is how we’re going to approach the material”?
Sinofsky: There’s no real research period for us. With BROTHER’S KEEPER, we saw an article in the newspaper on a Monday. On Friday, we were filming. We saw an article about PARADISE LOST, about these kids who had murdered these three kids, on a Tuesday. We made some phone calls. We were there starting the process four days later. Metallica basically said to Joe, “Why don’t you come in? Start your process.” On the first day we’re in there, there’s a therapy session with the biggest heavy metal band of all time. We like to jump into it. We don’t like to pre-plan.
Berlinger: You hit the nail on the head. With all due respect to the forementioned films, there was a preconceived agenda. And with us, we purposely do not have any kind of preconceived agenda. We don’t burden ourselves with research. Of course, you read about a case, you get the basic facts, but we purposely go into a situation without an agenda. And that way you can be open to change, y’know? The biggest example is PARADISE LOST. Sheila Evans faxed us an article about three guilty teenagers who did these devil-worshipping murders. What we didn’t know at the time was that was an AP wire pick-up of a very prejudiced one-sided local paper, THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, in Memphis. We went there to West Memphis thinking we were making a film about guilty teens. This was right around the time of the Jamie Bolger case in England, where one little kid killed another little kid, and we were fascinated by the idea of disaffected youth and how kids could be so rotten to each other and do such a horrible thing. We were going down to make a real-life RIVER’S EDGE. Had we had a preconceived notion, had we stuck to that agenda, we would have missed the story. And the story was, “Wait, guys... one plus one is not equaling two.” The inspector says about the case, on a scale of one to ten at the beginning of the film, “We have an eleven.” But then we started digging into the evidence and it was not that. We met Mark Byers and he gave us the creeps. We met Damien Echols and he didn’t give us the creeps. Many people think that BROTHER’S KEEPER is about an innocent. It’s actually a film about a person who probably did kill his brother, and yet it raises the ethical question... here’s a guy who probably did kill his brother, which we’ve never really talked about until fairly recently because we really didn’t want people to have our point of view... but it raises the issue... someone who is so far removed for our society, somebody who lives that survivalist, brutal lifestyle on a farm... should he really be brought into the legal system? And that became the theme of the film. And then with Metallica, we went in to do some vanity promo piece, and it turns out to be a film that completely turns the whole mythos and imagery of the rock film on its head. Was that our intention? No. But that’s the story we encountered.
Sinofsky: The act of discovery, for us as filmmakers, is what drives us every single day. PARADISE LOST, BROTHER’S KEEPER, METALLICA... every day that I got up... I can’t speak for Joe but I’m pretty sure it’s the same. I got up looking forward to what nugget we would find, what thing we would discover during the day that pushed the film to the next level. We love the idea of jumping off a cliff and hoping there’s a soft landing. We don’t want to know. We don’t have a political point of view on certain issues where we’re trying to drag the view to our point of view. I’m sure Morgan [Spurlock], when he was making his film, was not thinking that he would be losing weight and getting healthy by eating McDonald’s, nor I’m sure does Michael think that he’s gonna be creating a new group of Bush supporters, although he may indirectly. He has a political agenda. That’s his style of filmmaking. I don’t not embrace it, but it’s just not the way we work.
Moriarty: I just think it’s interesting that when people talk about documentaries having made a real commercial break-through in the two years or three years or whatever it’s been... I feel like a lot of the ones being embraced are not the ones I would consider classically-styled documentaries or as true documentaries.
Berlinger: I wouldn’t disagree with that statement.
Moriarty: I also wanted to ask about your collaborative process because it’s hard, I think, for some people who have never worked behind the scenes on a documentary or a non-fiction shoot to understand how you handle that process. How do the two of you work together gathering the footage you get? And then once you reach the editing room, how do you make decisions?
Berlinger: Let me tell you a story about Metallica. One of the beauties of making his film for us, one of the reasons it spoke to us, like sometimes the universe aligns and you feel like, “Wow... we’re meant to do this,” is that going into the film, Bruce and I were on very shaky ground as a partnership. We had forgotten the magic that happens when two people are thrown together that sometimes you can’t define, which is why it’s hard to define what each of us does. I in particular got... because it’s the nature of my personality... got wrapped up in “Who does what? How do we credit ourselves?” And not out of ego. This is really hard to explain. He has a certain set of personality traits and life experiences. I have certain set of personality traits and life experiences and talents. And I just felt that... I’m so about the truth of a situation and I was getting obsessed with, y’know... “He should make a film that expresses who he is fully, and I should make a film that expresses who I am fully.” And I became obsessed with that... about when you throw us together, is there some compromise? I was forgetting that when we’re thrown together, for whatever reason, there’s a certain chemistry that works. Just like Lars Ulrich... upper-middle class, privileged background, small, petite kind of guy. James Hetfield... tough, working-class dude who would be more comfortable probably under the hood of a car changing a distributor cap than anything else, had he not been the front man of one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Very different guys. If they had met in school, they probably wouldn’t have had anything in common except music. They come together and there’s this inexplicable magic that happens. And so, we were sort of losing our way with each other because with success you forget about these things, and you start getting used to the success you’re having, and we hadn’t worked together for the two years prior to the Metallica film, in part because I went out to do BLAIR WITCH and I was trying to pursue some fiction stuff... I did an episode of HOMICIDE. He did the Sun Records film. Then the opportunity came up to do the Metallica film, and there was no chance we wouldn’t do it together because throughout all this, what saved us was we were still the best of friends. We were still in constant communication, and when this opportunity happened, there was no question that we wouldn’t make the Metallica film together. But we both went into it very trepidatiously because we hadn’t talked about this unspoken thing. We hadn’t worked together in a few years, and we obviously had some issues. And BOOM, we’re sitting there in heavy metal therapy, and we’re listening to guys having the very same issues. Existential issues. Creative issues. Ego issues. “Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this?” The very same issues these guys were going through. And it caused us to reflect deeply on our relationship, and it renewed our creative collaboration. And the conclusion I came out of it with was, all the stuff I was obsessing over... you can’t categorize or critique who does what. You can’t quantify. We’re thrown together. We have a certain chemistry with the world. You would think we work really hard to get the access, but something about Bruce and Joe together can get a judge and a prosecutor and three sets of defense attorneys all to let us in and get the most unguarded... and I hope this doesn’t sound egotistical, I’m just trying to explain... for some reason, this works when we’re together. We can get the most successful band, whose image is predicated on being tough guys in the most image-conscious end of the music business, to just let us film them completely destroying their image. So, we have a certain chemistry with the world. Of course we’ve thought deeply about what each of us does, and there is an answer to that. I tend to be very detail oriented and anal and obsessive... making sure that everything is absolutely correct. And he is much more big picture. Left to my own devices, I sometimes lose the forest for the trees. Left to his own devices, he would miss some of the layers and issues. He’s much more attuned to the humanity and emotion of the situation, and I’m much more attuned to the intellectual depth of the situation. That doesn’t mean that I’m not a humanist and he’s not an intellectual. Throw that together and you have very human, emotional films that also have great intellectual depth.
Sinofsky: I think in 1961 and in 1956... the years that we were born... the film gods said, “Someday, you guys will land together in 1986 and you guy should make films together.” Because there’s something about the two of us. It’s like taking a piece of paper, ripping it in half, and finding those pieces that fit together. We very rarely have fights on set or on location. In the editing room, we’re each allowed a certain amount of swords to stick in here. If I want this scene, no matter what he says, if I put this sword in my belly it stays.
Berlinger: In fifteen years of thirty TV commercials, twenty corporate films...
Sinofsky: ... TV films, our main feature films... we just have a shared vision for the filmmaking. In the very beginning, when we did BROTHER’S KEEPER, I was a film editor and had more of the technical skills than Joe did, perhaps. But then he had great business skills. And in the middle was our collaboration with the brothers. Making relationships. If Joe is closer to one person, I let him take it. If I was closer to one person, I would do it. It was like relief pitching. I’d pitch the first seven innings, and Joe would come in.
Berlinger: And it continues to this day. I particularly bonded with Lars and had a really strong relationship with him, and Bruce particularly bonded with James and spent more time with him. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a relationship with James.
Sinofsky: We took advantage of whatever connections there were. Things happen organically for a reason. And we take advantage of that. In spite of having some ego problems and stuff like that, we never have ego problem when were working on a film. I think it’s only when we’re left to our own devices. After a film is done and all of the kudos and praise comes in, you got people like my brother whispering in my ear, “How come Berlinger has to come first?” I said, “Well, B comes before S.” And he’s like, “That’s bullshit.”
Berlinger: I didn’t know your brother said that.
Sinofsky: “Is Joe gonna get more credit than you this time?” My older brother’s trying to protect me, but I don’t care about any of that stuff.
Berlinger: He raises a point. In the early days, he was much more of the film’s technical guy and I was much more the film’s producer. I knew how to do marketing.
Sinofsky: And then he taught me. I taught him. Now we’re both very capable of going off and doing films. Joe just finished up a film called GREY MATTER which is a very good film. You did that great piece for HBO. I did SUN RECORDS. We’re very capable, obviously, of going off and making films.
Berlinger: And we do. That was one of the reasons we were having problems after PARADISE LOST. We were sort of joined at the hip, and we couldn’t figure out how to get our own films started. Clients would call and they’d be like, “Both or you or none of you.” It bothered me more than it bothered him. I’m the worrier, the glass half-empty kind of guy. He’s the eternal optimist, which sometimes gets us into trouble.
Sinofsky: It was also one salary for two guys.
Berlinger: Two directors working on an HBO project... they don’t give you twice as much money. So, it’s a money issue. “What if something happens to Bruce? I don’t want to be dependant upon somebody else.” I started beating the drum for us to start pursuing other opportunities and it was really difficult and that’s what led to our sort of separation. And because we had that separation period that forced us to do our own thing, we now do have our own separate careers. But when we come together, we’ll always come together for these big films... until the day I stop making films.
Sinofsky: I’ll probably die before you do. It’s when I stop making films. The collaboration will stop at that point.
Moriarty: You were talking about the fact that you bonded with Lars or James to a certain extent. How is it when you’re dealing with somebody as an interview subject who you not only haven’t bonded with but that, like you said about the Byers father, freaks you out? He’s incredibly revealing in PARADISE LOST, whether he realizes it or not. It’s disturbing how open he becomes.
Berlinger: He’s revealing in ways he doesn’t calculate. Like in the scene when those guys are shooting the pumpkins... it almost feels like a staged scene. People criticize that scene. He thinks he’s revealing one thing, but he’s actually revealing something completely different.
Sinofsky: As much as we may like or dislike a subject, they never know that. As far as they’re concerned, we show them all the same respect. What you see in that small scene with the pumpkin shooting or Mark with the “Yea, thou I walk through the valley”... we spend so much time... part of our working philosophy, especially in situations like that, we spend an inordinate amount of time with these people before we start filming – and almost as much time after. In any given day we may shoot for an hour, but might spend five hours with them waiting for the time when we look to each other and we look at our DP and say, “Now we shoot film.”
Berlinger: Which is very much connected to the last couple of years of documentaries that you talked about, where people have a preconceived notion. There’s also this tendency or belief that any time you’re with your subject, you should be rolling the camera. Like, jump out of the car and start rolling. Our whole style of filmmaking, which gets criticized by traditional documentarians, strangely enough or not strangely enough... we believe that building a rapport and a relationship with your subject is a really important thing. One could argue that this blurs your objectivity. Just because you have a relationship with your subjects, just because you have a rapport with them, doesn’t mean it stops you from doing the job you have to do as a journalist. One of the hardest things we dealt with in PARADISE LOST was we had a really serious relationship with the mothers of all the victims. Melissa...
Berlinger: Melissa’s in a slightly different category, but these people all believed because... because of nothing we told them... but these people just assumed we were making an anti-West Memphis 3 movie. That we were making a film to demonstrate that these rotten guys killed these kids. We tell everyone the same thing: we’re gonna follow the story to its conclusion, and we’re gonna tell the truth about the situation. Period. And so, despite having built a relationship with these people, they called us up in tears when the movie came out, horrified that we would not do anything other than crucify the Memphis 3, and that’s hard to deal with. We strongly believe in building a relationship with our subjects. We believe in spending a lot of time with our subjects... letting them get to know us, too. Part of the subtext of all of our films is our growing relationships with our subjects. That’s a very strong thread in METALLICA and in BROTHER’S KEEPER. In BROTHER’S KEEPER, we felt that these guys were so unaware about what it meant to be filmed that we felt that it was important to spend three or four weeks with them on the farm not filming. For three weeks, the cameras were in the truck and...
Sinofsky: I never worked so hard in my life. We would lay on the grass with them, like with Delbert, for hours. Not saying a word. And then they’d say something, and that afternoon in the car, on the way back to the hotel, we were like, “Next time we come up, we should shoot something. We think they’re ready.” We also had to win over the town elders, who the first couple days we were up there, stayed around. Then they saw the kind of people we are and left us alone for the rest of the shoot. It’s such a sensitive thing, y’know. The prime example is Melissa Byers. She’s coming out of church a week after her son was killed, and she’s got cameras in her face saying, “How does it feel to spend your first Mother’s Day without your kid?” We go into their house as invited guests, ‘cause we know it’s a privilege to be invited into some situation like that. God forbid something like that happened to me, there’d be nobody in my house. I wouldn’t be there with a picture of my kids... God forbid if something happened to them. I could never allow it. But that’s what we do. And it’s difficult for us to battle that feeling that we’re taking advantage of somebody. Thank God the stories we tell have a greater good to them. We feel like there’s something the audience will ultimately come away with... a poor-man’s justice or the other stereotypes we were addressing earlier about communities and stuff like that. But there were many days when we were with Melissa or with Dana, and the pain is just so palpable. And then we go home, and two days later Joe calls up and says, “Melissa called me at two in the morning because she was just devastated.” Or Dana called me up drunk at three in the morning because her husband wasn’t listening to her anymore, and no one was there for her to talk to anymore. And we had that kind of relationship, with or without the camera, because they would say things to us that they felt uncomfortable saying to their husbands or their ministers. And that responsibility is key. Now, if we went in there with a mission... now this is what we’re gonna do... I think we’d be doing a disservice to the story.
Berlinger: The camera, interestingly, is part of the bonding thing. And I think it’s something people... I think that documentarians who do not acknowledge that sometimes filming things changes what you’re filming... those who deny that are in denial.
Moriarty: The key word Bruce used is responsibility. One of the things that is a current through all of your films is that you seem completely responsible to the situations you end up in, where you are doing your best to be observers without altering or influencing. It seems so rare these days, especially as we see “reality TV” which is...
Berlinger: Unscripted contrivance.
Moriarty: It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world for someone who has grown up... I was a giant Errol Morris fan as a kid, and watched a lot of the Maysles Brothers films. And those were really the films that I found influential as far as reality on film. And then to see that phrase get so completely co-opted now and to see what people call “reality” TV or film...
Berlinger: Networks have come after us from time to time to do like SURVIVOR 18 or some knock off...
Sinofsky: We can’t do that. If they wanted to do something like what we do, naturally, a reality show... we’d certainly consider it. If we could do it our way without recreations on tape... you see these behind the scenes shows about the making of these reality shows, and there’s take after take and “This would be a great moment... maybe if you could cry a little bit.” I mean...<[>Moriarty: There are body doubles in some of the stuff to recreate angles they couldn’t have gotten. It’s just mind-boggling.
Sinofsky: It’s upsetting to watch because there was a time when nobody was doing reality programming, and we wanted to. We felt that we could take the integrity of what we bring to our films to television. But they didn’t want it. They wanted something sensational.
Moriarty: I know that HBO has been a real supporter of you guys and of real documentary filmmakers. They’ve been very aggressive about acquiring films at festivals, and it seems like they’re one of the few outlets that believes in that type of programming, and they give it the respect it deserves.
Sinofsky: Someday Sheila’s gonna retire... Sheila Evans... and there’s gonna be some young executive who got his name from creating JOE MILLIONAIRE or JOE SCHMOE and all these other shows that’s gonna then be in power, and then we’re not gonna have any of this programming. Most of these people say, “Well, this is what’s getting ratings.” I can’t watch it.
Berlinger: One of the original visions of BLAIR WITCH 2 was a meditation before the studio changed my cut. And despite Harry liking it, the original cut of my movie was a satire on the blurring of the line between fiction and reality. It was a meditation on that theme. And we are just so far down that road that, for people to think that SURVIVOR is reality is as disturbing as it was to me that people leaving BLAIR WITCH, despite all the media attention with Heather, Josh, and Mike on the cover of TIME and everybody celebrating the marketing hoax of tricking people to going to the theater... still forty percent of America walked out of the theater thinking they saw a documentary. And that fuckin’ freaked me out, because fiction filmmakers have wallowed in the worst clichÃ©s of bad documentary making as a way of communicating reality. Shaking the camera equals reality is really offensive to me. That’s footage I’d leave on the floor. We have these beautifully shot, beautifully crafted real films.
Moriarty: That’s what attracted me so much to Morris when I saw GATES OF HEAVEN or, in particular, VERNON, FLORIDA. VERNON, FLORIDA is a film I really love. And it’s a very simply made film and it’s not a shaky cam film, and there’s just room for people to be, rather than some story that they set up ahead of time.
Sinofsky: Reality television is cast. Let’s get the attractive, dumb blond. Let’s get the athletic guy. It’s terrible. And there’s no outcry. I don’t ever read about people in the business dismissing it as crap and saying, “Why aren’t there more shows like what Morris does or what Berlinger and Sinofsky do?” It’s actually refreshing to hear somebody addressing this issue. Joe and I find stories that interest us that will keep us interested for the length... for the year of dealing with this and at the promotional stage. We wish it was easier to make the kinds of films we do, because we do feel that they’re valid, valuable films. And it’s not that FAHRENHEIT 9/11 isn’t, or that SUPER-SIZE ME isn’t. They’re entertaining and they’re fun to watch, but they do leave a little bit... on the floor...
Moriarty: I think they’ve changed the definition as far as the public is concerned, and that’s what bothers me most. One more question before we wrap this up... how angry is Dave Mustaine?
Berlinger: Um... he’s a pretty angry guy.
Moriarty: This band has a pretty tumultuous history. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m dying to. I was in high school when Metallica was making their first group of albums, and I followed them around Florida one year and saw like nine shows in a row on one tour, so this is fascinating for me. And I’m not as big a fan anymore. I think that part of that is, whatever they went through behind the scenes changed their art to such a degree that we parted ways. My interests went somewhere else, and their music went somewhere else. I understand Dave’s in the film and that you’ve spoken to him, and it’s almost a different band that he was part of.
Berlinger: It’s a very... the scene, as you’ll see, is about Dave finally being able to confront Lars. Dave has spent the last eighteen years longing and regretting being kicked out of Metallica, despite his success. By anyone’s definition, this man has had success. And yet, the long shadow of being kicked out of Metallica has been cast upon him, and he’s a man who deeply regrets and laments being kicked out.
Sinofsky: He says, “I wish it was 1982 again and you guys woke me up and said ‘Go to AA.’” It’s as fresh as yesterday for him.
Moriarty: It’s remarkable to me. You guys talk about a creative collaboration that’s lasted, and to see that break apart, and to see the lasting wound it can leave in someone... I think that’s fascinating and definitely something I want to see in the movie.
Sinofsky: Almost every relationship... I got divorced from my wife in 1988, and we separated for a year. We have one kid together. And there are things she can say that are just so incredibly painful. Obviously, I have a wonderful life now and four kids with my new wife. Life is great, but she can still push a button that’s just like pulling off a scab. And you forget that it’s been sixteen years. I can understand how it feels. But Dave seems to be thinking about it a lot, where I don’t think about it at all. The time for the interview came and it was two days after September 11th. Everybody was very open, and it was just a raw period for everybody. I think that scene happened because of the situation. It’s a therapist, Lars, and Dave. They’re just talking out what’s been going on. Also a big part of Lars’s therapy is wanting to go all the way back and start fixing things that were sort of broken.
Moriarty: Thank you, guys.
Sinofsky: We really appreciate it.
Berlinger: This was really one of the most intelligent interviews we’ve had in about two years.
Sinofsky: Without a doubt.
Let me return the compliment. When I did get to see METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER two nights later, it was at the Henry Ford Amphitheater, an outdoor venue here in LA, as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival. It was a great way to see the film, and it is a much more affecting film than you might think. If you’ve ever been a Metallica fan, you’ll definitely find yourself absorbed in the struggles of this band to figure out who they are and what they mean to each other. But even if you’ve never heard a single song of theirs, it’s still a powerful look at what happens when people who are joined in a business venture, who depend on one another for a livelihood, begin to fall apart and forget the basics of how to communicate. It’s a much funnier film than it may sound like, at times bordering on becoming a real-life SPINAL TAP simply because of how surreal the lifestyle of Metallica seems. The thing that makes a film like this so wonderful is the sense of empathy that the filmmakers have for their subjects, and it comes through loud and clear here. They simply step back and let their subjects take them wherever they’re going, and what unfolds is as riveting as any narrative feature you’ll see in a theater this year. I may not like ST. ANGER any more now than I did before I saw the film, but I understand it more, and for the first time in a long time, I see James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett as people, not as rock’n’roll icons.
You can check out METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER in New York and Los Angeles starting today, and keep your eyes open as it begins to roll out in limited release around the country in the weeks ahead.
Thanks to Obi-Swan for his help with the transcription on this one. There's still a ton of stuff to prepare for you guys. I’ll be back later this weekend with my coverage of the ANCHORMAN premiere and a bizarre interview with Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and David Koechner, as well as another DVD Shelf column. Until then...
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July 9, 2004, 4:20 a.m. CST
I'll make sure to DOWNLOAD this movie, haha, am I right?
July 9, 2004, 4:20 a.m. CST
WHOOOO!!!!! METALICA ROCKS!!!!!!! YEAHHHH!!!!! WHOOOOOO!!!! KILLER DUDE!!!!! ROCK ON!!!!! ROCK AND ROLL!!!!! YEAHHHHH!!!! BRING ON DOKKEN!!!!! AND KROKUS!!!!!! WHOOOO!!!!! ROCK ON MAN ROCK ON!!!!!!....And thus, first? - - - George, The 7th Chicken!!!!
July 9, 2004, 4:34 a.m. CST
by Hung-Wei Lo
Metallica is like your political activist relative from the 60's. You used to think they were the shit, that they spoke to you, that they had so much to say. Then you grow up and realize they are just old and bitter, and trying to hold on to their once great past.
July 9, 2004, 5:48 a.m. CST
July 9, 2004, 6:03 a.m. CST
by Jon E Cin
They are a different band now then back in the days of Ride the Lightning..ahh..remember those days.....fuck I am old.
July 9, 2004, 7:14 a.m. CST
But I see where you guys are coming from; the track record isn't too flattering. Also, I've yet to see 'Capturing the Friedmans' or 'The Fog of War,' so how would those stack up?
July 9, 2004, 7:42 a.m. CST
But now I just can't be bothered with them. These guys have had it too good for too long, and there's no way I'd have the patience to sit through two hours of them in a group therapy session, no matter how well-delivered.
July 9, 2004, 7:43 a.m. CST
You love movies, huh? An ART FORM. Right? You cry out in anger when someone writes off a Japanese slasher film, just because of the genre. Then you turn around an make stupid jokes about heavy metal. Every genre has it's virtues, heavy metal, and Metallica in particular, more than most. The band has followed it's muse to places I couldn't follow, (Hated ST. ANGER, enjoyed LOAD) but I respect them. They've always said they would only make the kind of music they wanted to make, that they were selfish. I believe that is still true. You may not like what they are doing, but it is as vital and connected to _who they are_ as anything in their catalog. They cannot be the young, angry band that made MASTER OF PUPPETS anymore. If they were still trying to be, THAT would be selling out.
July 9, 2004, 8:04 a.m. CST
...would be a snuff film.
July 9, 2004, 8:42 a.m. CST
I'm going to kill you.
July 9, 2004, 8:55 a.m. CST
You know, I never would have suspected. And speaking of Florida, is "Vernon, Florida" out on DVD yet? sk
July 9, 2004, 9:25 a.m. CST
by Lance Rock
All documentaries are ultimately filtered realities. I understand what you mean about the difference between a "found" story and a story preconceived in the filmmaker's mind, but all non-fiction films are shaped in the editing room, with the filmmakers bringing their own sensibilities to the material. That being said, I can't wait to see Some Kind of Monster. Great interview, Moriarty.
July 9, 2004, 9:57 a.m. CST
Is there a better way to spit in the face of 4 foot tall drummer Lars Aulrich then to steal this shit off the net? You're damned right there isn't. Gentlemen..start your downloading!
July 9, 2004, 10:20 a.m. CST
by Roger Thornhill
I was surprised how good it is. One of the best rock documentaries I've ever seen and without a doubt my favorite film released this year. When the film was introduced the employee called it a film about recovery. It truly is that. It's funny, touching, and at times a bit suspenseful (even though you know the end story). Wonderful documentary...I never quite understood the backlash Metallica received for fighting Napster. After all, it is illegal to download music off of the internet since they are copyrighted. Copyright laws exist for a very good reason: to give artists the incentive to create. Without them, artists would be nervous to release their work to the public for fear that people would just steal it or copy it. Metallica and others like them were merely trying to ensure that these copyright laws were reinforced. It really is sad that most internet users cannot fathom the extreme importance of these laws and blame Metallica for the demise of their lovely Napster. Oh well, I'm getting off the soap box. Great film.
July 9, 2004, 10:47 a.m. CST
Mind you, this is coming from a very casual follower of the Metallica. Perhaps there's some story (besides for the Napster falderal; believe it or not, they were all behind that decision) that I don't know about, but from here it just looks like he's the guy forced to deal with all the negative publicity for the band.
July 9, 2004, 1:21 p.m. CST
Both BROTHER'S KEEPER and PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS are available but I really wonder what's up with the first one? Rights issues? Awesome interview, btw, one of the best I've ever read on AICN!
July 9, 2004, 2:06 p.m. CST
by Mosquito March
July 9, 2004, 2:28 p.m. CST
YEAH!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!! That's my review of this interview.
July 9, 2004, 3:26 p.m. CST
Fog of War is certainly a documentary, but just like all of Morris' movies, you will know something about where he comes from on the subject from watching the film. It's definitely less of a political cartoon than Fahrenheint 9/11, but to think that any one who captures 'reality' and congeals it to a two-hour synopsis is not in some way manipulating it or presenting a particular version of it is naive. I believe that's what they call a director's 'style', after all.
July 9, 2004, 5:11 p.m. CST
and is rocking a tune with her name on it...CHEERS Amigos!
July 9, 2004, 5:58 p.m. CST
goddamnit, Rock gods reduced to rampaging pussies. Sickening.
July 9, 2004, 7:05 p.m. CST
I love how AICN talkback regulars are telling Metallica how NOT to be pussies.
July 9, 2004, 9:37 p.m. CST
Not a Metallica fan at all, but will probably see the film this weekend. And would somebody please put Paradise Lost on DVD?
July 9, 2004, 9:49 p.m. CST
Thank you for proving my point. Lars is just the representative, not the evil mastermind.
July 10, 2004, 12:43 a.m. CST
I hated Metallica... and then they got behind giving the Napster loving monkeys the middle finger... that's why Metallica rocks!! Yeah!!!
July 10, 2004, 7:21 a.m. CST
by ULTRA WARRIOR
Boohoo. Metallica wont let me STEAL their music anymore. Let someone walk in your house & take something of yours. Let's see if you just LET THEM or if you KICK THEIR ASS. That's what you Napster jackasses were doing. Getting something for NOTHING. Nothing in life is FREE. Get use to it. Metallica is one of the greatest bands EVER. You don't like it? TO BAD. The TRUTH hurts sometimes. Wahhhhh Wahhhhh Wahhhhhhh They Sold Out. HELLO. McFLY. ALL BANDS SELL OUT. Bands aren't formed together to NOT make MONEY. Boohoo. I want Metallica to be playing in little run down bars for me. They should have NEVER made a video. They should NEVER make money off all their hard work. If you could make music & get paid for it, everyone of you sorry bastards would be doing it but guess what? YOU CAN'T so you want to piss on their parade because YOU don't have the talent to do it yourself. So keep on crying about how Metallica SUCKS or how much of a bunch of Assholes they are for expecting you to PAY for their music. There are plenty more people on this planet to replace half-assed losers like yourself who actually KNOW that what they do is their RIGHT & love them for it. Grow the hell up, Babies.
July 10, 2004, 10:48 a.m. CST
Oh wait, no it wouldn't. Um... never mind. Peace.
July 10, 2004, 10:51 a.m. CST
"Generals gathered in there masses..." Peace.
July 10, 2004, 11:59 a.m. CST
Man...MetallicA sold-out with ST. ANGER and its "garage-style" production. No, wait! They sold out with the LOADs and their shorter hair. No, wait! They sold out with the black album and its shorter songs. No, wait! They sold out with ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL when they made a video for MTV. No, wait! They sold out when they toured with Ozzy after MASTER OF PUPPETS. No, wait! They sold out after "Fade to Black" appeared on RIDE THE LIGHTNING. No, wait! They sold out when they signed a record deal with Megaforce Records... You people are f'ing morons.
July 10, 2004, 1:26 p.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
... who keep saying, "I'm going to download this shit and that'll show Metallica," what are you talking about? Metallica didn't make this movie. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky did. At what point did they piss in the faces of all you Napster-addicted children? At what point did they make some stand that justifies not paying for their movie? If you're going to download this as an act of revenge, you're doing it to the wrong people. I mean, at least get your desperate, self-serving rationalizations right.
July 10, 2004, 2:25 p.m. CST
Metallica gets famous because they encourage fans to swap tapes of their music. They get huge, they get rich, and then they suddenly start SUING people who trade their music? That, to me, is ingrateful and hypocritical. I will never listen to, purchase, or patronize Metallica ever again. They lost all credibility when they started filing lawsuits against fans who traded music, only a decade or two after the same practice made them famous and rich. They are, in a word, assholes.
July 10, 2004, 9:07 p.m. CST
MetallicA got on Napster's ass when an as-yet-released song of theirs (and several versions of it) appeared on Napster. Anybody who follows MetallicA knows that they, and rightfully so, have always fought for control of their music, whether they were fighting with Elektra or Napster. After selling some 90 million (albums and counting), you really think the Napster thing was completely based on money. Ack...why do I argue with sheep?!
July 10, 2004, 11:49 p.m. CST
July 11, 2004, 7:51 p.m. CST
And here was I thinking that musicians made music for the love of it. But then, where have I been for the last 20 years. Of course now they only make music so that they can drive Bentleys and live in palaces. If you're a musician you want to make music and have it appreciated by others regardless of whether they buy it or not. You want to be imitated because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If someone cares enough to download your music then great - you've touched someone. If you're crying cos a few college kids didn't pay $15 or however much (it's $35NZ) to buy your whole album of 3 good songs and 9 fillers and now you can't buy the winter house in Aspen, then you're no longer a musician by nature, only by trade, and that's why you'll suck. If this was a music forum I'd call this guy an RIAA plant...
July 12, 2004, 3:39 a.m. CST
I'm a fan of these guys previous films (with the exception of BW2, sorry). However, I'm a bit disturbed that in this interview they repeatedly refer to West Memphis, Arkansas as if it is one and the same as Memphis, Tennessee. Let me assure everyone that these two locations could not be more different in just about every way you can imagine. From the perspective of a lot of Memphians, West Memphis is simply a small town a 1/2 hour drive away from the city, on the other side of the Mississippi river, in another state. And aside from the physical disconnect, there's no cultural, political, or social connection either. In fact, in six years I have yet to meet a Memphian who's even BEEN to West Memphis. Sorry for the rant, and I don't mean to ridicule the people of West Memphis of which I'm sure there are some good folks. But in Memphis, Tennessee, West Memphis, Arkansas doesn't even enter into the picture. The two locations only share a name. Surely in their time spent there, Berlinger & Sinofsky were able to make that distinction.
July 13, 2004, 4:32 p.m. CST
I've never liked them, and what they did to their fans several years back was just disgusting. I love Prince, but he's been an asshole to his most hardcore fans as well. Shutting down sites just because they have lyrics and photos was terrible, and then he gave Napster an exclusive song! Unbelievable. and what about Don Henley? The Eagles have the biggest selling album (Greatest Hist I) and tour (Hell Freezes Over) in rock history and he STILL wants more dough. I hope the recording industry collapses
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