Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) (Unrated)
"Anvil: The Story of Anvil" is a documentary about never giving up your dreams. It surrounds the band "Anvil" and their sad saga. Formed when the two predominant members were just fourteen years old, the band saw its share of success for the most fleeting of moments and then it vanished into the background. It remained there for the rest of the years until the making of the documentary.
Heralded as one of the papas of heavy metal, Anvil's style proved that metal was unapologetic and shocking to those growing up in the 80s. Lead singer and guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow would scream out the word "sex" as part of his lyrics and play his guitar with a dildo...subtle.
After the movie's quick opening, which shows several gurus of the rock world paying their respects to Anvil, the film is quick to transition to the cold winter of Canada where Lips works for a catering company. Anvil never became successful and after their initial tour in Japan and the buzz they generated...they just vanished. It wasn't as if it was anyone's fault and certainly they all had enough passion to spare; but it's just one of those things...the heat petered out and the fire that was Anvil died.
But the love for music and performance never died inside Lips or drummer Robb Reiner, so they continued to strive for that fame, that life of influence in the music world which is so hard to achieve.
They tried for thirty years...
The movie picks up with the band as the rockstars are now in their fifties and ready for fame more than anything. They strive for it daily. The documentary feels like their awakening with a not-so-gentle critique of the music industry. At one point Reiner saying that he "f**king hates" the industry because of how persnickety and pious it is.
Bands like Anvil, which are influential and still making good music even after three decades get swept aside for the cutesy pop artists who don't deserve it. In many ways, not much has changed from the release time of "Anvil: The Story of Anvil" and "20 Feet from Stardom" because they are singing the same tune. Music is beauty but the music industry is unfair.
A glimmer of light comes in when the band believes that it has a manager. Tiziana Arrigoni comes in and tries to set up a European tour for the band; but they hit snag after snag. Missing buses, missing trains, late for venues, and the like. Eventually they all realize that they aren't getting paid for this.
The low point comes when Robb and Lips gets into a fight about whether or not the band is going to dissolve on the streets of Europe. They decide to play for their audience, which turns out to be less than ten people.
There is a lot of soul to "Anvil: The Story of Anvil"; but there is also a lot of melancholy moments that eat up the screen time. The viewer understands the mental anguish of the people and we don't need nice shots of trees, flowers, cats, lonely landscapes, or string music to make us feel that much more.
Director Sacha Gervasi is sure that we don't get lost in the heavy metal and see the people beneath. Lips is very childlike and very much living a facade. There is one moment when he is required to be more brash and he just can't do it—the result of his politeness costs him a job. Robb seems lost in a world of artistry. He smokes, plays the drums, and paints beautiful paintings.
They all had their dreams of Anvil making it big and becoming a superpower in heavy metal. They still have those dreams.
As the band works on a new album, I can't help but be reminded of Rob Reiner's "This is Spinal Tap". After viewing the documentary, "Spinal Tap" seems funnier and more poignant.
"Anvil: The Story of Anvil" makes you want to get out of your seat and start doing something with your life. It is inspiring and altogether a nice movie, though nothing spectacular.
Posted by Micah Jones