Tuesday 5 May 2009

Review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Year: 2008
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Starring: Steve "Lips" Kudlow, Robb Reiner

Being in the arts is hard. So hard that most people give up when their still quite young. They give up and start writing miserable blogs about artists and creators that are actually successful.....er......

I digress.

It's hard to make it in the artistic world and once you make it, it's hard to stay on top. Fame is a cruel bitchmaker which straddles it's helpless slaves and rides them like a drunk 18 year old on a mechanical bull. But many still crave the spotlight and at one point it looked like Anvil, a Canadian metal band had said spotlight; having moderate success with their brand of metal, supporting Bands such as Bon Jovi. Anvil tells us of a band who looked like they could have gone to to great things if it wasn't for a cruel twist of fate. In 1984, the thrash metal "big four*" came through and made metal a big thing, and somehow Anvil were left on the wayside. The film hints that it may be the fact that they were from Canada that made things difficult, but nothing is justified.

Skip to the present and Anvil are STILL around...well two of the original band members: the Lead singer "Lips" and drummer Robb Reiner . They are in medial jobs (well Lips is while we know nothing about Robb) but still live by their vow to rock until they drop. Despite being in their 50's, their quest for true fame lingers on 30 years after forming.

Critically lauded and rightly so Anvil is a heartbreaking film about two men who just simply don't know when to quit. Many have talked about how funny it is but within some of the films funniest lines come the most heart wrenching moments. What makes Anvil so watchable is the fact that the two leads are totally devoted to each other (read co-dependent) and will do anything to achieve a dream which even their long suffering wives have released, may have faded a long time ago. They're unrelenting in their pursuit, they know what they want and are unlikely to compromise for anyone especially the A&R men that hold the keys to the doors that the two desperately want them to open.

But their blinkered perspective along with their bizarrely youthful optimism, shows you why they are where they are. The first half provides the most laughs we follow the group on a tour with a naive promoter who has booked them in clubs all over Europe because of her love of the band. She can hardly communicate with them, she forgets simple things such as double checking the travel, and is so bad that it is agreed with by the band and a fan (a lawyer) who happens to find them at a dive of a bar that they were playing (and didn't get paid for) that she is "bad management".

You get the feeling that Anvil have had a lot of this in the 30 plus years they've been around and you laugh at the absurdity but each giggle is a painful one. The film has been likened to Spinal Tap (a shot of an amp going to 11 and a trip to Stonehenge help matters), but plays out more like Chris Smith's American Movie (1999). It's a story a screenwriter couldn't make up. Nothing seems to phase these guys and their drive is admirable (if not slightly insane). But what makes this documentary a winner for me is the fact that due to their unwavering point of view, their reason for soldiering on is because they love music and they love who they play for.

One of the reasons Metalica: Some sort of Monster is painful to watch is your watching a band who've done it all and seem to have no idea what to do with themselves any more**. Their fame has clouded their judgement and their in house fighting appear to merely be petty squabbles for power. Anvil fight because they're passionate and have something they know someone, somewhere will love. They have no pretension, no pomposity, and are clearly focus on making a person rock to their music. These days finding a band like that is hard to find.

*The Big Four: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth

**I say this about Metallica due to when Some Kind of Monster Came Out, I have been told that Death Magnetic is v good.