When director Greg Olliver asks Lemmy Kilmister, “What’s the most valuable thing in this room?”, the Motörhead legend replies immediately and without hesitation: “My son!” It’s exactly what you would expect a dad to say, a completely natural and honest answer that, perhaps more than any other scene in this enthralling and funny film, shows us the true nature of one of rock music’s most mythical figures.
Using the standard bio-doc convention of mixing new and intimate footage of the man at home and on the road with archival video and interviews, Lemmy essentially both dismantles and reinforces the man’s legend. Beyond all the stories of four-figure sexual conquests (“I’m 63, and I’ve never been married,” he says. “It’s not really that many”) and rampant drug use, Lemmy is presented as just a humble, down-to-earth guy who also happens to be a rock n roller. The first time we see him, we saw see him as the Man: he’s sitting in his incredibly cluttered living room, playing a video game, then cooking himself up some chips before heading out from his modest apartment to a waiting limo to embark on yet another tour. An elderly resident, probably not that much older than he, acknowledges him as he passes. Just a neighbour, heading off to work.
Later we see him as the Myth: hanging out with Billy Bob Thornton at the Rainbow, with a couple of models as he waits to shoot a scene in Californication, hitting the stage with Metallica, jamming with The Damned, tearing through “Ace of Spades” with Motörhead in Germany, and regaling Dave Grohl with tales of being Jimi Hendrix’ drug roadie. Unlike the exuberant Grohl however, who seems to think the film is about him for a few minutes, Lemmy is never boastful, conducting himself with a calm pride and an almost gentlemanly dignity, even as Olliver seems determined to film his every waking moment. And like most real rock n roll icons, he’s a man of relatively simple tastes. When he isn’t blasting critically amped heavy rock from the world’s stages, Lemmy isn’t much different from any other senior citizen: he lives alone in a comfortable place close to his friends and favourite establishment. The only difference is, well, he’s Lemmy: his favourite establishment is the Rainbow Bar and Grill and his friends are people like Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Metallica.
The film makers present a vast array of interview subjects, from Jarvis Cocker to Lars Frederikson, Dee Snider to Lars Ulrich, Joan Jett to Alice Cooper, to members of Hawkwind and the Rocking Vicars – his first band – to help paint a picture of this remarkable man. But nothing does it better than Lemmy himself: raw, honest, humble and hilarious. He embarrasses his children, has strange hobbies, professes an ever-lasting love for Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis and lives his amazing life in completely his own way. Lemmy is a warm, funny, inspirational, educational and occasionally emotional look at one of the world’s true cult heroes, with enough of all those elements to appeal to even those who don’t really know who he is. And for those who do, it’s a must see.