I was positive, then perplexed, then positive again about Sacha Gervasi’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil. A documentary? Ha-ha, no: It was ultrasubtle, maybe not funny enough, played with admirable sincerity, but a neo–Spinal Tap mockumentary nonetheless. I’d never heard of this supposedly pioneering Canadian heavy-metal group that made a small splash (largely among metalheads) in the early eighties, influenced Metallica and Slayer, and then slipped into obscurity. Surely Canada was the tip-off, along with album titles like Hard ‘N’ Heavy, Metal on Metal, and Forged in Fire—never mind that the lead singer is “Lips” Kudlow and his drummer “Robb Reiner” (nudge-nudge).
Reminiscing about how they met, they say that one of their first songs was called “Thumb Hang” and inspired by the Inquisition. They go on a European comeback tour, and the camera follows them into near-empty auditoriums and clubs. They visit Stonehenge. Recording their comeback thirteenth album (This Is Thirteen), Lips and Robb quarrel and make up, crying and clinging. (“You’re my fuckin’ brother, man.”) At EMI Canada, an exec welcomes Lips and Robb warmly (“You’ve been around a long time, and that has currency”—a line too fabulous to be real), listens to about twenty seconds of their album, and abruptly shuts it off. The film ends on a brighter note when the Japanese go mad for them: No, no, no, it can’t be real.
Yes, yes, yes, it is, so apologies to Anvil, Gervasi, and Canada. The documentary is solid as … as … an anvil. And if you can forget Spinal Tap (hard), it’s also rather touching the way these 50-year-olds still have the forged-in-fire fortitude. Rock celebrity is the hardest of pipe dreams to achieve—and the most impossible, it seems, to let go of.
Go to The Projectionist for reviews of Sugar, The Escapist, and the sprawling ten-hour Japanese antiwar epic The Human Condition, returning to the Film Forum for nine days.