Friday, December 11, 2009

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" is about the two founding members of the eponymous band and their struggles to really get back into the popular opinion after their heyday back in the 1980's, when they were on the same bill as Bon Jovi at a festival in Japan. This was their limelight, and they attracted a lot of attention due their onstage methods and other things. They were considered pioneers of hard rock back then, but 12 albums later, when the film sets its focus, they aren't riding as high as before.

We see from a series of dismal concerts that they struggle to fill a room with people. But they still want to record, especially Steve Kudlow. He's never given up his dream, even though it's taken hit after hit, and judging by this film, he never will. Robb Reiner, the drummer, wants it to happen as well, but not with the fervor that Kudlow does. He's always wanted to play the drums, but then again, he also likes to paint. Kudlow is like Jeremy Renner's Sgt. James in "The Hurt Locker": only one environment will suit him. Kudlow is part of a family of businessmen, so clean-cut that with Kudlow's long, flowing hair and informal attitude he doesn't seem to fit in. As noted before, the only place he can really function is the stage.

Now about the technical aspects of the film. I assume from a credit cookie picture that Sasha Gervasi is to Anvil as Anton Corbijn is to Joy Division. In the style of Corbijn's "Control," Gervasi crafts a documentary, which is the correct narrative form for this movie, as the story continues into the present and perhaps beyond. He gets unrestricted access to all of everything that goes on with Anvil. As A.O. Scott says, Gervasi "makes a case and a place for" Anvil, and that's vital, since otherwise Kudlow would just be another dreamer left on his own. It's also perhaps time to see what happens after a band goes downpeak from its highest stage. Since we sort of know this, it's all the more depressing and sort of downbeat a movie.

The documentary for me started out really well but then sort of swirled into doubtfulness. It needed a little more direction. But hey, this was where the mood and information headed. What I'm saying is that Gervasi was on course for a great directorial debut, but what he ended up with was something only good. But it's not a disaster finish (as a matter of fact, the opposite), and "Anvil! The Story of Anvil!" does very well in leading us into territory that at least that I (an alternative rock lover) hadn't gone into. B

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