Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hammering the Anvil

Original Post - Saturday, July 10, 2010

Have had the Anvil DVD on the shelf for a long time but finally got around to watching it a few days ago. It had so much press it was hard not to have preconceptions. I expected Spinal Tap with heart but that doesn't quite capture the experience.

Finding that one of the band members shared the Tap directors name (with an extra B) upped the Tap ante but as I watched the Tap elements became less and the human aspect came to the forefront more quickly than I expected.

It really is a heartbreaking but ultimately heartwarming tale of male friendship and the power of endurance and not laugh out loud funny and certainly not a film where you are tempted to laugh at the characters. Like all great documentary there is a love for people in all their quirky glory. You find yourself rooting for the guys to finally recapture their early glory.

I had often thought of (maybe I should revive the idea!) the potential of a documentary about an unsuccessful band but it was always met with zero interest as there was no belief that anyone would watch it. It seemed to me that it would have more to say about the r'n'r dream than another biopic about a successful band.

This film does that. Pushing forty years together the two main players in Anvil have tasted initial success but have only moved further and further from it as they go on. The montage of unsuccessful albums and their mundane jobs are not part of the standard r'n'r dream. The scene where Lips tries to earn some extra money in a telesales company owned by a superfan (who has had a song written about him) is classic square peg stuff and his inability to sell a spiel is almost heroic.

A moment in Japan near the movies end where they look at a giant auditorium and reminisce about having an audience of five in a  similar place is both modest and in context brings tears to your eyes. They have travelled all this way only to find that they are playing before midday at a festival.

You feel that the boat has been missed again as chaos seems to overtake every opportunity - the 'European Tour' documented is a truly awful looking experience and chimes with tales I have heard from friends who will remain nameless here.

And for the Hollywood element we get an uplifting ending and watch in realisation of the unfilmed coda which the success of the film brought about - the ascent to some sort of fame of the band on the coat-tails of a film about their failure to do the same.

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