A Metallic Taste

AnvilGenerally I’ve no truck with heavy metal music and like it that way, as there’s almost nothing about the genre that appeals to me. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of Sacha Gervasi’s 2008 documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which I watched a few nights ago. The movie tells the sometimes hilarious, somewhat sad and shockingly heartwarming story of an indefatigable Canadian metal band that, some three decades after their initial, minor brush with success, continues to plug away in search of rock stardom. It’s surprisingly well made, being gorgeously photographed and incisively edited, and is also universally appealing, even if like myself you prefer a lot fewer serifs in your music, if you’ll permit me to contort a metaphor for novel purposes (you know what I mean!).

Music for Film

There are plenty of interesting ‘rockumentaries” but what strikes me about “Anvil!” is that it’s not a movie that could have been made with much success twenty years ago, or perhaps even ten years ago. Its themes of mid-life rockism carrying on well past its prime and artistic perseverance in the face of a music world that’s completely changed beneath the band members’ feets seem ideally suited for this particular moment in pop music’s history: rock ’n’ roll is fundamentally innocuous now, regardless of what flavor of it a band might trade in, and the record industry is in tatters. Last night, for instance, I heard a tune from the critically praised band Dirty Projectors as an unidentified backdrop to a television commercial and thought to myself, “Yep, that’s about right.”

Worst of the “Lot”

Speaking of rock movies, over at The A.V. Club Chicago music writer Jim DeRogatis picks the worst rock movies ever. His list of seven offenses to rock sensibility — including Oliver Stone’s absurd “The Doors,” Martin Scorcese’s sycophantic “The Last Waltz,” and U2’s bombastic “Rattle & Hum” — is largely predicated on his distaste for hagiography. I can’t argue with that, just as I can’t argue with the movies on his list, with the exception of the wonderful “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” an amateur documentary shot outside of a 1986 Judas Priest concert in Landover, Maryland. That low-grade time capsule from the 1980s is not just a terrific historical portrait of people I very well might have known growing up, it also shows that even when rock ’n’ roll is less than glamorous it’s still irrepressibly vibrant. Plus, it’s a movie about heavy metal music which, apparently, I quite like.

  1. I just cannot get over the fact that the drummer Robb Reiner shares the same name as the director of Spinal Tap. It’s almost an impossible coincidence — a mockumentary nod to the mockumentary.

  2. I watched 365 movies in 2009, and this made my top ten.

    It was so beautifully edited, that I personally felt like I was a part of the band, sharing every emotion and experience. It was an emotional roller coaster.

    The extras are also well worth a look, with the highlight being a very special appearance by director Sacha Gervasi.

  3. It was wonderful — almost a tear jerker there at the end.

    If you liked Anvil, the Story of Anvil, you should see American Movie. Different sort of documentary, but had the same effect on me, and I liked it even better than Anvil.

  4. The thing that is throwing me off is that at least here in Portland, OR the new young hipster trend is metal. I try and stay in the loop but what happened to our beloved indie? I was never a metal head, don’t know that I can make that leap in the name of hip.

  5. I loved the story. At first it was all very funny, but you soon get wrapped up in the lives of these guys. You really don’t have to enjoy metal music to understand this is a personal drama unfolding. The metal music part of the movie actually adds some identification with the group for the viewer. One never really knows just who these guys are until you see just how close they were to fame.

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