Over wine, our neighbours raved about the 2008 metal rock documentary “Anvil” so we gave it a look on Netflix.
The film traces the attempted comeback by two members of the original Anvil, who grew up in suburban Toronto during high school in the seventies and led the band to some modest success, as testified by various heavy metal luminaries who they influenced. The lead guitarist, “Lips”, was the first to pioneer the use of a rubber dildo as a slide on his guitar.
And then failure. The band never received the acclaim they thought they deserved, Now in their fifties, trapped in dead-end jobs, they still retain both adolescent determinination to succeed and adolescent obliviousness to facts that get in their way. And they haven’t updated their wardrobe since they dropped out of high school.
There are numerous cringe-inducing moments as the duo launch a comeback European tour, culminating in a concert in a 10, 000 seat arena in Bulgaria, where only 174 people show up, their resilience as door after door is slammed in their faces as they try to sell their new CD, and the weary resignation and flagging support of their friends and family. But they still live the dream.
I’m 99% confident this isn’t a faux doc in the spirit of “This is Spinal Tap” which, to my mind, precluded any heavy metal band from participating in documentaries that portray heavy metal as a serious pursuit and the struggles of metal musicians as legitimately angsty human travails.
But I don’t think metal aficionados watched Spinal Tap, or if they did, they had so little sense of irony that they thought the film was legit. As a result, post-Spinal Tap metal docs look like remakes of the original, down to the overwrought serious, bathos, and the elaborate attention to creating metal personas. The punch lines might not as deft, and the participants not so obviously self-parodying, but remember that these people are serious about their craft, so the laughs, while plentiful, are nonetheless purely unintentional. Watch “Spinal Tap”, “Some Kind of Monster” and “Lemmie” in that order and see what you think.
So while “Anvil’s” celebrity cameos, interviews with unsophisticated family members, and the numerous fan sites all lend to the credibility of the film (Anvil is a real band, albeit stunningly unsuccessful!), I have my doubts.
For one thing, the drummer’s name is Robb [sic] Reiner. Just a coincidence? Maybe. And there’s one very short close-up shot in the film during a recording session which is absolutely stupefying. The camera actually zooms in to catch the sound engineer CRANKING IT UP TO ELEVEN. If this film is legit, I say there is no way the intended audience of Anvil addicts would get the joke. Proof follows below.