'Lemmy': Bowing down to the rock-god force behind Motörhead
A movie review of "Lemmy," a documentary that paints a loving portrait of the rock-god guiding force behind proto-heavy-metal-band Motörhead.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Lemmy,' a documentary by Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski. 117 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
Of the many portraits this amusing rockumentary paints about the guiding force behind proto-heavy-metal-band Motörhead, the most unflattering are in the unprintable subtitle. But as we see in "Lemmy," this 65-year-old gentleman with the distinctive facial hair and penchant for Nazi memorabilia is not only a certifiable rock god, he's also one of the most thoughtful fellas you'll ever find grinding our mega-decibels on a bass guitar.
Even though Black Sabbath formed a few years earlier, Ozzy Osbourne himself credits Motörhead as being the quintessential metal outfit. With Lemmy (aka Ian Fraser Kilmister) as the sole constant since its formation in 1975, Motörhead laid the way for a slew of bands such as Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. Because of the thrash elements supplied by Lemmy's raspy voice and speed bass leads, the band also influenced a breed of punk rockers who paradoxically loathed the long-haired glam metal that also sprouted in Motörhead's wake.
Though overly fawning and about 20 minutes too long, "Lemmy" is a testament to rock 'n' roll endurance akin to Keith Richards' recent autobiography. Ozzy is just one of scores of fans and associates from two musical generations who provide talking-head tributes to the man, recounting specific anecdotes as well as the impact of his legacy. These heavily tattooed guys (and a few girls) are astute and articulate in how they view Lemmy as not only a hero, but also a regular guy and truly generous man. Billy Bob Thornton describes him as "combination biker, musician and guy that works at the carwash."
He may be kind to others, but he certainly remains hard on himself, swilling Jack Daniels and chain-smoking Marlboros. The film coyly implies that he's also still munching his beloved amphetamines along with daily medication for diabetes and high blood pressure. When he's not following a punishing tour schedule, he can be found playing video games in a tiny rent-controlled apartment just off the Sunset Strip, surrounded by clutter that could land him on an episode of "Hoarders."
His live-for-the-moment attitude solidly intact, Lemmy shows few signs of human wear-and-tear. As one working-class cockney fan puts it: "If they drop a nuclear bomb, Lemmy and cockroaches is all that's gonna survive."
Ted Fry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 3, 2011, was corrected Feb. 4, 2011. A previous version of this story misspelled names of the bands Metallica and Megadeth.
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