A follow-up to filmmaker Penelope Spheeris’ classic 1981 “punk” documentary hits the glam metal circuit. Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler are among the icons interviewed in this film.
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The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal YearsDirected byPenelope Spheeris
Surprisingly good (I'm not a fan of Heavy Metal), but this is a worthy follow-up to Part I. Spheeris has a way of capturing the most fucked-up people in all of their glory. And like Part I, it's a snapshot in time. These films tell about much more than just rock n' roll.
In confronting performance sequences with staged interviews Spheeris succeeds in showing the cultural background of Metal Music with all its clichés and acting (and also with its ridiculous political correct counterpoint that declares war on Heavy Metal). But the documentary doesn't stay focused and gets a little bit fuzzy in the last third.
In this movie, the music takes a back seat to the glam. Bowie was able to be a real musician, but many of these bands are representative of the decade of greed. When I was in High School a girl I was dating went to a KISS concert. I gave her a hard time. Anyone who was serious about music would never do that. It was generally agreed that they were a joke. It was just understood. They're not a band, they're a brand.
This is first-rate biased doc-making. Spheeris slowly shows her hand and her opinion, at first casually observing – or, as with the Ace Frehley material, ironically framing – hedonistic, destructive, and misogynistic behavior being confused for art & community. By the end, with the full-length Megadeth footage, you realize: she never showed the other bands play full songs, because she has no respect for them.
Even though she dramatized certain interviews for the sake of humor, and even though the metalheads of the late '80s were truly disgusting and misogynistic human beings, this was still a fascinating documentary.
Boy, this movie is well-done but quite depressing - full of bad music and vacuous people. Spheeris captures the bands working to become rock stars, their fans, and the decadent stars they all idolize. Everybody comes across as ignorant and proud of it. Spheeris definitely makes her sympathies clear. For example, one man's self-destructive behavior while his mother watches is haunting and excruciating to watch.
Granted, I'm much more familiar with this scene than early punk, but I just found this a better watch. Both films are pretty scary in seeing how people think, but this one just feels easier to get into.