“This idea originally came up a couple of years ago,” explains musician and part-time rock god Robert Trujillo, “the question of what films the different members of Metallica all like—and which ones we’d pick to put into the festival if we were asked. When the question came up again this year, my choice was pretty simple.”
Metal heads and cineastes may now throw up the horns in appreciation
Yes, Metallica (who debuted their 3D concert extravaganza Into the Never at last year’s Mill Valley Film Festival) is back again. And this year, they’ve been named 2014 Artists in Residence at the annual October event, which ranks amongst the most distinguished non-competitive film events in the world. As Artists in Residence, each member of Metallica—currently ruling the planet as the biggest heavy metal band this side of the Great Beyond—has been asked select a film to run in the festival, and to introduce the movie with a few choice words about how that film inspires or intrigues them.
As might be predicted, the band’s choices are wildly varied.
Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, a lifelong fan and collector of giddy-cool horror movie memorabilia, will be hosting a late-night screening of the uber-gory 1971 schlock spectacle Dracula Vs. Frankenstein (Oct. 6, 10pm), featuring Lon Chaney Jr. as a mutant ax-murderer. Drummer Lars Ulrich, known for his maniacally physical performance style, has picked a brand new film about very different, similarly driven, albeit fictional, young drummer. A hit at Sundance, Whiplash (October 7, 7) follows an ambitious young drummer and conservatory student, who locks horns with his ruthless and abusive music teacher.
Lead vocalist James Hetfield indulges his own taste for classic westerns with a fully restored, pristine print of Sergio Leone’s masterful poem to moral ambiguity The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Oct. 9, 7pm), featuring Clint Eastwood as the iconic Man with No Name.
And for Trujillo, bass player for the band since 2003, his choice of film was especially clear.
The emotionally stirring, eye-opening documentary Jaco (Oct. 6), about the pioneering bassist Jaco Pastorius, has Trujillo as one of its producers. An advance “rough cut” of the film, co-directed by Paul Marchand (The 50 Year Argument), will be followed by a musical celebration of Jaco, at the Sweetwater Music Hall, featuring a lineup of musicians including Trujillo and band-mate Hammett, Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), Roderigo y Gabriella, and members of the Pastorius family, all celebrating the music and indelible spirit of a true American original.
“The timing was right to present this to the world, to finally tell Jaco’s story, which is really a pretty amazing story,” says Trujillo of his choice to screen his mostly-but-not-quite-finished film, which will be released by Passion Pictures, which made a splash with the Oscar-winning Searching for Sugarman.
“We’ve had about ten different cuts of this film,” Trujillo says. “We’d think we were finished, and then some new treasure comes along, something we just had to put in the movie.”
Trujillo admits that some people are surprised when they hear that a member of a major heavy metal band is also into jazz, but points out that Jaco’s music spanned a much wider canyon than can be summed up in a single word.
“I’m gonna be 50 years old this year,” he says. “I’ve been around, I’ve heard a lot of music, and I appreciate everything from Beethoven to flamenco—and I was very lucky to have seen Jaco perform four times before his death. To me, I never looked as Jaco as just jazz. To me, it was a very personal thing. To me, he was always rock ‘n roll.”
Film, as MVFF has demonstrated annually over the last 37 years, is both widely universal and deeply personal. As Metallica’s choices illustrate, one film means different things to different people. In the course of single festival—this one features over a hundred features, shorts, documentaries, parties, panel discussions, and onstage interviews in eleven days—an audience’s reaction will be as rich and varied as possible color combinations on a painter’s palette.
In addition to the Metallica selections, this year’s festival includes The Theory of Everything (Oct. 9, 7pm), a moving filmic biography of physicist Richard Hawking. Another high-profile, math-themed film is The Imitation Game (Oct. 4, 5:45 p.m. and October 6, 4pm), featuring Benedict Cumberbatch about mathematician Alan Turing and his efforts to crack Nazi codes during World War II.
This year’s event seems to have a number of films with science, math or nature as a major theme, including the festival closer, Wild (Oct. 12 5pm), featuring Reese Withrspoon in the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestseller about a woman hiking the wilderness alone.
“You can learn a lot from a film, seriously,” says Trujillo. “I’ve learned so much from making Jaco—and now I can’t wait to share it with a few of our friends.”