Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL (Sacha Gervasi, 2009, USA)

Anvil’s career has the buoyancy of its namesake; their music is like pounding on the fragile incus. But founding members guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner never abandon their dream of being Rock Stars by forging their hammer-and-tongs music, where the screaming power chords and thumping rhythms are contradictions of their angst and gentle humanity. Director Sacha Gervasi’s documentary seems to be more SPINAL TAP than the faux Rockumentary, but here he is interested in depicting the real people behind the music: not a parody of an excess rock’n roll lifestyle. 

The film begins with Anvil’s world tour in the 80’s opening for acts like Metallica, Bon Jovi and Anthrax, and then the band receives accolades from talking heads such as Slash, Lemmy, and Lars Ulrich. CUT TO: present day reality where Lips is driving a delivery van, an average working guy with hairnet and gloves, but he dreams big and lives for the day Anvil can release a bestselling record. He is warm and unpretentious, his three-chord fantasy perfectly sustained, but his time is growing short as old age casts its long shadow upon his soul. The documentary follows a failed three-week tour throughout Europe where Anvil plays to crowds of 20 to 30 people, and in one instance don’t get paid for a performance. 

Lips and Reiner are best friends and their relationship is poisoned by adversity, but they always just love to play their music: it is a humane and rare gesture in the predatory world of entertainment to find genuine people. Interviews with supporting family members who don’t’ quite understand their obsession but love them anyway: a sister who lends them 20 grand to record their 13th album just brings tears to your eyes. Love and family is the theme whose undercurrent isn’t silenced by Metal on Metal, and their gig in Japan seems to be another failure in a litany of bad luck…that even the mystical energies of Stonehenge can’t alter. Then we cheer with the sold out crowd as Anvil rocks the stage and, for a brief moment, the world. 

Final Grade: (B+)