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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Anvil! The Story Of Anvil




To open up this review, all I have to say is that it is about bloody time, eighteen films into the year of reviews, that I finally arrive at the first masterpiece of the year. And that is by no means an understatement. Apologies if I am not exactly leaving the review to much open interpretation, but in case you haven't caught on already, I am about to speak very gloweringly about this film. Between this and Tyson already, this is certainly proving to be a good year for the documentary film. Anyway, to build a little bit of background context, Anvil were a reasonably successful thrash metal band at the beginning of the 1980's. However, as this film documents, over the years their success has waned, but unlike many bands whose decline has forced them into retirement, Anvil still remain. This film is a story of that journey. Really, in my honest opinion, like any good documentary, Anvil tells an interesting story. However, one of the rarest things which is nailed in a documentary is the fact that it is so interesting a story that if it had have been a piece of fiction, it perhaps would have been worse. Steve "Lips" Kudlow, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band, is very much an extravagant character, and is the driving force of the band, very much your stereotypical rock vocalist, almost a parody characiture. With his unending enthusiasm and giant heart, whereas as a film character he would be annoying, as a real person, his determination wins us over. Robb Reiner, the band's drummer on the other hand, is very much a representation of the audience looking upon the spectacle. Often very sick of rock and roll and questioning why he still does it despite their obvious failures and lack of financial gain from it, the reason it seems he stays with the band is because of loyalty to his childhood friend and love for him and the band. The way that the film portrays the two is very much in the manner of classic film duos, inseperable from the other, like one living entity, each with their own traits contributing to the composit. Put it this way, I had cried by the half-an-hour point in the film, and by the end of the next half-hour, I had cried again. Anvil is a really human story which is completely accessible and easy to understand, even for those who are not metal fans. The themes approached in the film (yes, themes in a documentary), include that of determination, hardship, friendship, dreams, and each are pulled off with great savvy. I think that a large part of the credit for the end product of the documentary has to go to director Sacha Gervasi. Having served as a roadie for Anvil on three different tours in the 1980's, it is pretty obvious with the way that they are portrayed that he is a fan of the band. However, Gervasi, unlike director James Toback of Tyson, directs this documentary with an even balance, even suggesting throughout the film at a number of stages that part of the problem for the band's decline was the band themselves, a very daring move for a documentary. However, I think that Gervasi's further scrutiny and the band's frankness seem to let the more challenging material come to light, particularly in the interviews with Anvil's close family and friends, who are more or less in consensus that they have failed in their dream. The band however, continues to drive on. Gervasi captures this portrayal of the invulnerability of the human spirit brillaintly, but there also other contributors to be acredited. In my opinion, much of the film's success also belongs to the work of the film's editors, Andrew Dickler and Jeff Renfroe, who do an absloutely fantastic job of keeping the film short, sweet and very tight with a lean running time of only ninety minutes including credits. However, you do not feel that a moment of this time has been wasted. Every moment onscreen is appropriate and you feel that with the way the editing work has been done, making the film uplifting, tragic and humourous, often within one scene, that if the film had been chopped in a different manner, it could have ended up leaning more towards only one of those audience emotions. However, Dickler and Renfroe work let's the film dip into all of those emotional pots. In conclusion, I read a review on Rotten Tomatoes by Tim Robey of the Daily Telegraph. He says that this will not slight the Citizen Kane of the genre, Some Kind Of Monster. Sorry Tim, you are wrong. Some Kind Of Monster may be the Lawrence of Arabia of the genre, but this is the Citizen Kane of the rocumentary genre. It is an absolute masterpiece, and already a shoe-in for this year's Best Picture nominations of my own. I cannot remember of the last time I roared at that the screen wishing for the band's triumph. Any film that conjure these emotions from someone in my opinion deserves to be recognised, and in my opinion, it is also one of the best film's of the decade. In case you still don't know, I like this film.


The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.7/10

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