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Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Filmmakers Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berliner are best known for what one critic dubbed their “murder documentaries.” The first, 1992’s Brothers Keeper, was the riveting story of Central New York’s geriatric, hermit-like Ward brothers, and how their rural neighbors supported them when Delbert was accused of murdering brother Bill. The two Paradise Lost films followed, in which the exact opposite happened: The grisly murder of three children brought the small town of West Memphis, Ark., together against three Goth, metal-loving teens who were railroaded into prison on a wave of prejudice and questionable evidence.

The new documentary from the filmmaking duo couldn’t be more different.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster chronicles the making of the multiplatinum metal band’s latest disc, St. Anger. What was supposed to be a simple “making of”-style documentary became something much more: On the first day Sinofsky and Berlinger showed up, Metallica were in the middle of a group therapy session with a licensed therapist. And things weren’t going well. (Though Metallica had the full support of someone . . . their corporate masters, AOL Time Warner.)

“On day one,” Sinofsky remembered in a recent telephone interview, “Joe and I gave each other that knowing look, realizing that there was a greater story here than the making of an album.”

This began a two-and-a-half year journey for both the filmmakers and the band. As Metallica tried to figure out if they could still make music together, Sinofsky and Berlinger were on hand every step of the way to capture the drama. And what drama: James Hetfield disappeared for nine months, in rehab, and returned a changed, subdued man; drummer Lars Ulrich came to terms with the new order of things, and received some blunt words of wisdom from his Gandalf-esque father; and guitarist Kirk Hammett persevered. In this sense, Sinofsky argued, Some Kind of Monster isn’t that different from their earlier documentaries.

“It’s really about the act of discovery,” he said. It’s about getting to know who these guys really are, Sinofsky added, and finding the connecting narrative fiber that makes what they’re going through a compelling human drama.

“It’s also about breaking down stereotypes,” Sinofsky observed. After all, Metallica are the macho kings of metal, and here they’re shown as sensitive guys working through their problems.

“It’s a strong, positive message about mental health.”

And, he added, Metallica “are very happy with it.” Nothing supports this statement better than the fact that Metallica are showing the trailer for the film to audiences every night on their current tour.

Asked about the current lives of the folks in their earlier films, the news is decidedly mixed. While the quiet Lymon Ward is well, formerly sprightly Roscoe is very ill in a nursing home. Delbert died in 1998; Sinofsky and Berlinger not only attended the funeral, they paid for it. (And bought gravemarkers for all the brothers, too.) As for the West Memphis Three of Paradise Lost, Sinofsky said that this is Damian Echols’ last year: He will either earn a federal appeal of his trial and death sentence, or he will be executed. The filmmakers have started preliminary work on a third Paradise Lost film for HBO.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster opens tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 15) at the Spectrum 8 Theatres (290 Delaware Ave., Albany). Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger will lead a Q & A session after the first screening on Friday evening. For show times and information, call 449-8995 or visit www.spectrum8.com.

—Shawn Stone

k.d. lang with the Albany Symphony Orchestra

Since burrowing her way into pop culture’s collective unconsciousness nearly 20 years ago, k.d. lang has recorded in and, some might say, mastered more genres than most songwriters have songs. She’s dabbled in country, pop, dance, and torch music, all with the same high degree of professionalism and quality. For her latest album, Hymns From the 49th Parallel, lang finally gets around to tackling the songs of her fellow Canadians, reinventing them, she has said, “as hymns . . . simply songs of praise.” Backed by only piano, bass and guitar, she captures the desolate hush of that forgotten North Ontario town in Neil Young’s “Helpless,” and locates the spiritual heart in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (The album also features songs by Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, and Bruce Cockburn, among others.)

k.d. lang will be joined by the Albany Symphony Orchestra as she revisits a career of constant crooning on Saturday (Oct. 16) at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave., Albany). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $55 and $65, and are available at the Palace box office at 465-3334 or through Ticketmaster at 476-1000.

MAK3

Party planners, both the professionals and the devoted amateurs, will tell you that there’s a fine art to assembling a guest list (the very existence of a professional class of party planners should indicate that this is an involved procedure). Beginning tonight (Thursday), the Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery will host a three-night party, the guest list for which is impossibly great. Literally impossible.

In conjunction with an exhibit celebrating composer George Crumb’s 75th birthday, the Tang is welcoming the astronomer Edwin Hubble, for whom the telescope is named and who discovered the concept of the expanding universe, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky, among others. The party will be hosted by Charles and Ray Eames, the husband-and-wife design team who defined mid-century design.

Yes, sharp-eyed readers, save the birthday boy himself, all of those people are dead. They’ll be portrayed by actors and interviewed Fresh Air-style by the evening’s producer, associate professor of art Margo Mensing. (Prior to the formal interviews, the characters will be snacking and mingling, so feel free to introduce yourself.)

After the socializing there will be a live performance of Crumb’s 1974 work for piano and percussion, Music for a Summer Evening: Makrokosmos III, which was scored to include among its percussive instruments both Tibetan prayer stones and the jawbone of an ass. Seriously.

MAK3 will be performed at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery (Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs) beginning tonight (Thursday) and running through Oct. 17. Tickets for the 7 PM shows are $5 (cash only). For more information, call 580-8080.


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