Category: cinema

Detroit Metal City was a devoutly-cherished and hard-to-get Manga that built a legion of devout followers in Japan.  The story of a farm-boy who moves to the big city (Tokyo) to live out his dream of being a “trendy” musician – he inadvertently ends up as the lead singer of the most ferocious, bile-spewing death metal band Japan has ever seen – known affectionately as – you guessed it – Detroit Metal City.  Thing is, the kid doesn’t want the job.  He mourns his fate and wishes from the bottom of his heart, he could make it on his own terms – that is, as a sappy J-Pop singer.

The film version endeavors to stay as close as possible to the aesthetic and conventions of Manga in that all the actors (with the exception of a couple of animated segues, it is strictly a live-action film) make huge over-exaggerated expressions and respond to things in a way that a viewer who has somehow not yet been exposed to the uber-dramatic Japanese cartoon style, will be completely baffled, perhaps even turned off.

But not this reviewer.  I applaud them for lifting the energy of the manga directly off the page and onto the screen without defaulting to computer generated effects or otherwise.  In itself this component is fascinating.  That the characters and the story are both comedic, intense and hard-core while delivering a rather profound message about the significance of having a dream, what we exchange for it, and doing so with a big warm heart, is exemplary.

The comedy comes not from being wry or ironic but rather from such an overblown sincerity that we instantly align ourselves with the people onscreen.  You are almost powerless in resisting. Kenichi Matsuyama sparkles as the insanely melodramatic protagonist – switching effortlessly between the shaky-kneed pop geek to the demonic lead singer from the gates of Hell.

Gene Simmons makes a cameo on steroids in this film.  It works, because no one could play the old guard Devil of Rock better than the man who created it.

The music is all very well produced, loud as hell, and the live band scenes are convincing and visceral – all typically hard to accomplish.

Detroit Metal City - The North American Premiere

I don’t know if this will translate to a big enough audience in the US to see anything short of Cinematheque distribution in North America, but it is already the second highest grosser in Japan as of the TIFF premiere.  A small legion of Japanese school girls (not wannabes, but actually visiting from Japan) lined the barricades outside the theater waiting to snap a photo of their idoru.  I mistakenly believed them to be waiting for Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page to exit the screening that happened prior for “It Might Get Loud”.  They could have cared less.  Sir Krauser, the fictional white-face painted Death Metal god who sings “Kill them all, kill everyone” was the man they were after.

1974 was a one of those strange years that drew infamy, intensity and just plain strangeness with which certain years, be it due to a nexus of precipitating events, or coincidence, become saddled.

I am particularly cognizant of the curiosities of that particular year because it is the year I was born. May 14th. Exactly two months prior, Russell Hoban had a sudden need to begin jotting down strange near-phonetic revelations in his post-nuclear-apocalyptic/spiritual book Riddley Walker. Philip K. Dick identified that year as the one where V.A.L.I.S. – the Vast Active Living Intelligence System – beamed a pink light into his head, causing him to simultaneously inhabit the time of Christ and the present day Santa Clara where he in actuality dealt heroine out of his basement to the local neighborhood kids.

Nixon was impeached. Stephen King published Carrie. The Super Outbreak – the largest chain of tornadoes ever to hit the US and Canada left 315 dead and 5000 injured. India successfully detonates first nuclear weapon. The very first UPC code was scanned in a store in Troy, Ohio. The Symbionese Liberation Army recruited Patty Hearst. Juan Peron, beloved president of Argentina, husband to Evita, dies. Christine Chubbuck, a newscaster for WXLT-TV shot herself in the head in a live broadcast. Restrictions on holding private gold in the United States, created by Franklin Roosevelt are removed.

Duke Ellington, “Mama Cass” Elliot, Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, Samuel Goldwyn, and Nick Drake, die.

Meanwhile in Kinshasa, Africa, American producer Stewart Levine and South African musician Hugh Masekela organize a three-day festival to coincide with the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match-up between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali. The lineup consisted of Bill Withers, James Brown and the Mighty JBs, B.B. King and list of African superstars that included Miriam Makeba and Afrisa. Most of the American music legends were visiting Africa for the first time.

Documentary footage of the event was tangled up in legal affairs encircling the Liberian backers, but footage finally became available when the issue was settled in order to form the basis of the Oscar winner “When We Were Kings” – a documentary concerned with the boxing match. Footage of the music concert remained unpublished – until now.

While bootlegs of the show have been readily available for years, for the first time in three decades, California-born director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte presents a heretofore unseen perspective on the white-hot music of the mid-seventies’ monsters of soul in a setting that startles and documents a time when connections were becoming more enthusiastically recognized between contemporary American music and its connections to that of Africa.


Thursday September 04 06:30PM AMC 6
Saturday September 06 09:00PM AMC 10
Saturday September 13 10:00AM AMC 3