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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Story of Anvil is Melville-esque in the quest for stardom

I really had to fight back the urge to to shudder when I asked the woman behind the safety glass at the ticket booth at Midtown Art Cinema for two tickets to see Anvil The Story of Anvil on Memorial Day. When she lazily replied, "$20." I thought yikes! Really? That's $10 a piece. ... I wouldn't pay that much for an Anvil album if I found one in the used record bin. ...Or at least I wouldn't have before watching director Sasha Gervasi's documentary film about the Canadian metal band that soared to metal heights in the mid '80s, but has persisted in obscurity over the decades that have followed.

The band's 50-something frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow still beams with childlike excitement when talking about achieving success as a rock star, which has cruelly taunted the band for more than 30 years.

Lips and his childhood buddy and drummer Rob Reiner fight a Melville-esque battle that threatens to destroy their friendship at nearly every bump in the road.

The truly brilliant tension in the film arises in the sacrifices they make and in the dynamics of every relationship the band's members share with their wives, children, siblings and fans.

The film beautifully synthesizes This Is Spinal Tap with a reality TV-like flair, but these are by no means the guys that you love to hate. Visual clues that allude to the Spinal Tap parallels are none-too-subtle either, as we see volume knobs cranked to 11, and the boys in the band even pay a visit to Stonehenge when they travel to the U.K. to record with producer Chris Tsangarides.

Tsangarides seamlessly doubles as the band's therapist when things become too heated between Lips and Reiner. These scenes daftly recall the embarrassing little bitch fights that erupted between the members of Metallica in directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's 2004 documentary, Some Kind of Monster. But rather than being laughable, Anvil's fights feel very real.

I won't divulge much more than that. It would be a shame to give away too much here, but Gervasi's film may just be the spark that finally gets the ball rolling for Anvil. The story is compelling on an existenital level, maybe even more so than their music. But having said that, after watching the film I'd snag up a record if I come across an older one, like Metal on Metal. The records may or may not be worth $10, but the film and the story behind the music are certainly worth it.

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