Documentary, Rock

Fix: The Ministry Movie (2011)

0 Comments 11 May 2012

Studio: CAV/Gigantic Pictures

Theatrical Release: April 14, 2011

DVD Release: April 10, 2012

Director: Doug Freel

Not Rated

Review by Shawn Spear

A documentary mostly filmed during the band’s 1996 SphincTour, Fix: The Ministry Movie focuses primarily on Ministry’s vocalist/guitarist/front man Al Jourgensen as he struggles with heroin addiction and the trappings of life as a rock star.

Jourgensen started Ministry in 1983, first releasing 12” singles through the Chicago-based independent label Waxtrax! Records, followed by several full-length albums via major labels Arista and Warner Brothers. The band combined samples, pulsating rhythms, and aggressive guitars to create a sound that became a signature of the industrial music scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Ministry’s success peaked with the platinum selling 1992 album Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs, but Fix begins as fan interest in the band had begun to wane. As former drummer Bill Rieflin recounts, “The ’92 tour…was first class, five star all the way. It wasn’t like that for the [’96] SphincTour.”

While Rieflin‘s quote, the first lines spoken in the film, suggest that we are in for a Spinal Tap-like story of a band’s downfall, director Freel never gives us a narrative thread of that kind to hold onto. Instead, he attempts to tie together a hodgepodge of concert footage, backstage antics, and interviews–including those from fellow rock stars, Warner execs and the band itself — into a hectic behind-the-scenes look at Jourgensen and the band.

Freel films Jourgensen as he covers himself in talismans (“I’m a superstitious man,” he says), puts on bulletproof vests before concerts and shoots heroin on the tour bus, then cuts to present-day interviews of Jourgensen’s colleagues, including Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro, Tool’s James Maynard Keenan and Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor, to try and provide context and understanding.

One of the more insightful interviews comes from Keenan, who offers his explanation of why disaster is almost inevitable when rock musicians like Jourgensen go out on the road, a place where temptation lies in wait.

“There’s something broken in [musicians] to begin with,” Keenan says. “Something happened in their childhood that pushed them to get on stage and perform, whether it’s mommy and daddy issues or whatever… There’s something missing in us. There’s a black hole.”

As the film repeatedly shows us, Jourgensen tries to fill his black hole with drugs, specifically heroin–he ties up for a fix, cooks with a spoon or injects in his arm several times throughout– but other than attributing it all to the trappings of stardom, Freel doesn’t even attempt a deeper understanding of the singer’s neurosis.

Navarro and Reznor offer their own stories of addiction, which closely mirror that of Jourgensen’s, and Freel tries to mold it all into a larger point about rock stars crumbling under the weight of their own fame. Not only is this a tired premise on which to base a film about rock music, it often feels like weak front for what he really wants to show us: the crazy, drug-fueled antics of Jougensen backstage.

Among them, Jourgensen playfully sticks syringes up his nose, pulls down his pants and flops around on the floor, sticks his penis in a chicken and wears a funny hat. The camera lingers on these acts as though this type of off-the-rails rock star behavior is inherently interesting or shocking, but aside from a brief moment or two, there is nothing interesting about any of it. Jourgensen comes off as a garden-variety casualty of rock excess, and what Freel fails to explain is why the troubled star is deserving of anyone’s attention outside of diehard fans. Other than a quote from Reznor, who explains that Ministry’s music was a major influence on his own, there is virtually no mention of Jourgensen’s talent, how he makes music, or why Ministry was such a great band for its time.

The lessons to be learned about rock stardom from Fix are hardly more profound or shocking than an average episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Ministry may have been a groundbreaking industrial metal band, but judging by Fix: The Ministry Movie, Al Jourgensen is little more than a rock cliché’.

The 2-disc Collector’s Edition of Fix: The Ministry Movie also includes Stalkers, Dope Fiends and Aliens, three 12+ minute interviews with Reznor, Navarro, Ogre Nivec, Casey Chaos, Paul Barker and Al Jourgensen.  Disc 2 is a cd of new music from Paul Barker, former bass guitarist, engineer and producer for Ministry.

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