Sunday, 5 April 2009

Anvil!, or Na na nana na nana na, thumb tacks!

It's testament to the power of music that a band like Anvil (specifically founding members Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner) has stuck together through thick and thin. Relationships may have been strained at times, but there's no better healer of mental or physical wounds (with the possible exception of time) than music.

Now, it's hard to talk about the film without mentioning This is Spinal Tap, so I'll get that out the way. The similarities (references?) between the two films are striking. There's an early scene where the cover of every album the band has made is shown, along with titles. At one point, Kudlow and Reiner talk about the first song they wrote together, and even give an inpromptu performance. Their tour manager is also the girlfriend of one of the band members. There's a visit to Stonehenge, and a finale in Japan. Robb Reiner even shares the same name of the director of Spinal Tap (plus an extra 'b')! The crucial difference is, right from the off, you know this is real. And maybe the reason there are so many similarities is because Spinal Tap was more accurate than first assumed at presenting the experience of being in a metal band. If anything, Anvil! The Story of Anvil fleshes out these comedic fall guys into rich characters, and becomes an infinitely more human experience. It's funny in parts, naturally, but there's more to it than that. This is a film about friendship, faith, love and never giving up in what you believe in, despite how old you are, and despite how your older sister might feel. Surely that appeals to everyone?

Like Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, minus all the pretension, the film works simply because it takes that most indomitable thing on Earth, the human spirit, and shows off what it can do. There are laughs along the way, but also tears, and you really start to feel for the guys when continue playing shows for venues that can hold 10,000, but less than 200 show up. Anvil haven't seen the success they desire, or even deserve, but they keep journeying on regardless, keeping an eye open for the next opportunity to make it big. And maybe, just maybe, this film might finally be the key to open that gate.

A hell of a film, and a hell of a closer to this year's festival. It's been a blast!

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