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‘Lemmy’ — Movie Review

MotorheadNoisecreep caught a screening of the Lemmy Kilmister documentary — entitled, simply, ‘Lemmy’ — at SXSW in Austin last week. The doc was about 20 minutes too long and it didn’t follow a clear narrative timeline, but that’s our sole complaint. It presents its subject as being exactly as he is onstage as he is in real life.

The film proves that the mythos of Lemmy – hard drinking, chain smoking, bass playing, Rainbow frequenting, war history buff and metal cowboy- is anything but mythical. Actor Billy Bob Thornton sums up the Motörhead frontman brilliantly: “He’s part rock star and part guy who works at the car wash.”

The filmmakers, Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, followed Lemmy around for three years, capturing his essence and sides of him that many Motörhead fans may not be aware of. With heavy hitters like Dave Grohl, Henry Rollins, Thornton and members of Metallica weighing on Lemmy’s sphere of influence in heavy metal, it crystallizes what Lemmy means to our community. It doesn’t show us Ian Fraser Kilmister; it shows us Lemmy, because that is who he is.

The film touches on Lemmy’s early days with psych rock band Hawkwind. It follows him around Los Angeles, as he holds court at the storied Rainbow Bar & Grill every single night when not on tour. When Lemmy and the filmmakers let us into his tiny apartment off Sunset in Hollywood — which feels like an episode of ‘Hoarders,’ given the massive amount of stuff the Lemster has accumulated over the years — we don’t feel sorry for him for how he lives. The filmmakers, and the subject himself, demonstrate that this is how Lemmy chooses to live. This is Lemmy, moles and all.

The revelatory moments are when we see how Lem’s signature custom boots are made; how he wears Daisy Duke-style shorts in summer, as Anthrax‘s Scott Ian says, because it’s hot and how Ian’s board shorts aren’t really shorts, but pants; how he plays his bass turned up louder than any other bassist in rock; and how he is with his only son. It’s a bit of a softer side of Lemmy, but one that’s always razor sharp.

The only emotional moments come when Lemmy discusses his fatherless upbringing, saying, “All he ever did for me was walk out on me” or when he says that the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is not one he advocates, since it’s killed a lot of his friends. Then it’s back to Lem walking backstage before his performance with Metallica, where he walks into a room of ‘Tallica jamming and says, “What’s up mother f—ers!”

Lem also drives a tank, shows off his extensive collections of World War I and II memorabilia, which does include a lot of swastikas. The directors do ask him on camera if he worries about being viewed as a Nazi because of his collection, to which he responds that he’s had five black girlfriends and that’d make him a really bad Nazi. No bulls—. That’s Lemmy.

It’s yet to be determined if the film will have an arthouse theatrical run or if it will go straight to DVD.

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