January 6, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Today's movie: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, 2008 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this 2008 documentary has turned out to be unusually popular, a "true-life Spinal Tap" about a Canadian metal band that had its first breakout hits in the early '80s, but then never caught on to superstar status like their peers, despite still being together and having now put out twelve albums, this particular film covering a semi-disastrous "comeback" tour of Europe and their struggles to record their thirteenth CD.

The reality: Whew! I gotta say, now that I've actually watched it, I'm relieved that this didn't turn out to be another American Movie-style documentary; and by that I mean the curious post-9/11 rise of holier-than-thou docs meant primarily to mock their subjects, by cleverly editing together first these subjects' overly grandiose statements of intention and then the pathetic results they actually achieve. Because Lord knows, it would've been easy to do such a thing with these earnest but not terribly bright hard-rockers, whose on-screen adventures really can approach the level of deliberate absurdist comedy at points (arena shows with only a hundred attendees, a telemarketer job to afford a recording session); but instead, filmmaker Sacha Gervasi spends equal time concentrating on all the successes that were happening in the same period, all the packed nightclub shows in Sweden full of sexy, sweaty fans, everyone wasted and having a great time, not to mention the long-take monologues that let these band members display their pure love for the creative process, the obsession for art-making that drives everything they do in the first place. It's not just a nice look at the ongoing non-ironic fascination in Europe and Asia for stadium-sized rock shows, but an astute examination of the tiny suburban clubs owned by aging fanboys that largely dominate the industry now in North America; and by carefully editing together his own raw footage so that the film ends on a joyfully triumphant note, when he could've so easily left us with the image of these guys slavishly going back to their crappy day jobs, Gervasi proves that it's the indomitable quest for creative excellence in the face of overwhelming odds that he really wants to explore here, and not just the desire to take cheap shots at a bunch of guys who are one step away from being human cartoons to begin with. A surprisingly moving film that brought me to tears several times, it comes highly recommended today.

Strangest piece of trivia: Gervasi first met the band by being one of their roadies on their '82, '84 and '85 tours, long before he was a filmmaker. (And speaking of strange trivia, Gervasi also spent time in his youth as an intern for poet laureate Ted Hughes, wrote the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal, was the drummer of Bush up to just a year before their first big hit, and had a baby in 2006 with former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.)

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:05 PM, January 6, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |