Decades after their moment in the sun in 1984, Canadian heavy metal band Anvil plugs along, playing bars and releasing CDs that barely sell, still hoping for that break that bypassed them while landing on their festival cohorts Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and the Scorpions. The documentary charts their new European tour that starts off promisingly but disintegrates into a disaster of Spinal Tap proportions, their struggle to produce and promote another new album, and a climactic return to the site of their past glory. While the opening minutes might engage laughter as one expects a real-life version of This Is Spinal Tap, the laughter is choked off almost immediately and replace by sympathy and real hope that these guys catch a break. They are not clowns – they have real talent – and the beyond-all-measure optimism of lead singer “Lips” is heartbreaking. A rock documentary to rank with the best of them, and one that proves that the absence of fame can be as compelling as its presence.
This is another great-looking documentary. The colours are very strong, and the image perfectly sharp. There is some grain, and given the conditions under which a number of scenes were shot (in tiny, dark venues), its absence would have been most surprising. This is a film that not only looks as good as one could hope; it looks better.
No complaints at all when it comes to the dialogue – all the interviewed subjects come through loud and clear. There’s a pretty good sense of environment, too. I am somewhat less enthused, though, when it comes to the music. This is a movie about a heavy metal band, after all, and the music sounds a bit thin. This issue is also connected with one of the few nits I have to pick with the film: I don’t come away with a clear idea of what the band sounds like, since all we hear are brief snippets.
Commentary Track: Director Sacha Gervasi, “Lips” and the other founding member, drummer Robb Reiner (I know, the name makes the Spinal Tap aura positively spooky) provide a most interesting track, shedding light on much of what went on behind the scene and between the moment captured by the feature. It’s like a further documentary, and is almost as entertaining as the film itself.
Deleted Scenes: Three of them, with a “Play All” option.
Extended Interview with Lars Ulrich: (30:06) Beyond what Ulrich has to say about Anvil and the 80s metal scene, the piece is interesting in a behind-the-scenes way as we see Ulrich and Gervasi talk about how to use the footage best in the feature itself
“School Love” in Japan with Sacha: (4:16) The director is brought on stage to play drums.
A thoroughly delightful documentary, that, though it is frequently very funny, is even more moving. And the title is a serious contender for Best Ever.