Sunday, October 18, 2009

Movie Log: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Everyone in the world has regrets. The only real choice in life is to have most of your regrets be things that you did do, or things that you didn't do. The men in the heavy-metal band Anvil -- the center of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil -- are in the unhappy position of regretting the things that they had no control over, and so aren't sure if they did right or wrong.

Anvil was an up-and-coming back in the early '80s, just before that big wave of thrash/death/etc. metal really broke with Megadeth and Metallica and so forth. There's a montage of famous metal musicians, early in Anvil!, all talking about how great and groundbreaking Anvil was back then, and how they upped the game for everyone. (One may consider that these men are mostly being polite and charitable, depending on one's opinion of Anvil's music as shown in the movie.)

But Anvil never happened -- maybe because they were from Toronto, maybe because they were always on small labels, maybe because they never had a decent manager, maybe because of bad luck, maybe because their records never sounded as good as they could have, maybe because their songs just weren't good enough, maybe a thousand maybes. But the core of the band -- Steve "Lips" Kudlow, the singer and guitarist, and drummer Robb Reiner -- stayed together. At the time this movie was filmed, they were both in their early fifties, and had been playing together since they were both fourteen -- most of that time as Anvil.

The movie is then something like the portrait of a long-term marriage; Kudlow and Reiner have been together longer than most marriages, and have been that close most of that time. Kudlow is more annoyed by the failure of Anvil than Reiner is -- they hew pretty close to the stereotype of hair-trigger frontman and phlegmatic drummer in that. It's not the story of their failure -- they didn't exactly fail, anyway, just didn't succeed in the way that they'd hoped for -- but an examination of what its like to still be chasing that rock 'n' roll dream in middle age, with wives and kids and tedious day-jobs. Kudlow and Reiner are like the guys in ten thousand bar-bands across the civilized world, except that they saw that brass ring, and got close enough to almost touch it.

Anvil! has all the things a good rock movie needs to have -- the disastrous tour, led by the hard-working but overwhelmed manager; the big fight during the recording of the make-or-break comeback album; the interviews with die-hard fans; the montage of Big Names explaining why we should care about Anvil; vintage footage from when everyone was younger and had all their hair. If we sometimes get the sense that Kudlow in particular has seen too many rock documentaries and VH1 reality shows, and is trying to live the life he thinks he ought to have rather than the life he has, that's only to be expected. This is rock 'n' roll. It has to be bigger than life, or else it's nothing.
Listening to: Local H - Hey, Rita [Live]
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

RobB said...

Funny that you post this review today, my wife and I just finished watching this about an hour and a half ago after having it on TiVO for a couple of weeks. Good and entertaining, but we kept wondering if the band was a real band. Metal is my favorite flavor of music and I don't remember hearing about them until this documentary.

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