Festival coverage sponsored by IndiePix.
As a student and practitioner of the sub-genre known as the music documentary, I was very interested in two titles at this year's Sundance Film Festival - the competition doc PATTI SMITH DREAM OF LIFE and the Spectrum doc ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL. What I didn't quite expect was that the two films would remind me of the themes and styles of my own films, so apologies in advance for a post that will be more self-referential than I normally allow.
There was good word-of-mouth coming into the festival for Sacha Gervasi’s ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL, and the film did not disappoint, providing a welcome relief from some of the more serious nonfiction films at the festival.
Telling the tale of a Canadian heavy metal band that apparently rivaled Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica in the burgeoning days of metal, the film is a hilarious and surprisingly touching story of how two musicians – friends since high school – have fought to keep making music even as they reach 50 and as they’ve watched their contemporaries reach stratospheric levels of fame and fortune.
Right off the bat, this story plays right to my personal preferences. GIGANTIC, after all, is also a story of two boyhood friends who are two decades into a career that has been filled with ups and downs, yet who are still looking for ways to make music. At the time of its making, They Might Be Giants had reached a kind of sweet spot in their careers - able to record and tour and still have a decent, comfortable (if not opulent) lifestyle. The two leaders of Anvil find themselves at 50 still searching for the audience they glimpsed in the metal '80s.
ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL has frequently been referred to as “a real-life Spinal Tap” and, in fact, there are several deliberate references to the 1984 mockumentary classic (not the least of which is the fact that Anvil’s drummer is named Robb Reiner). A couple of these spot-on homages straddle the line between brilliant and contrived, such as a visit to the real Stonehenge, but the film is so fun that it seems petty to complain.