Category Archives: Music films

Watch: Anvil: The Story of Anvil


Australia is going crazy for this documentary right now. Lips and Rob Reiner’s goofy mugs have been plastered across newspapers, tabloids and TV shows everywhere. Which is strange because when I saw this documentary at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, no one was talking about it even though the screening was jam packed with middle aged metalheads sporting big hair and faded Megadeth t-shirts.

If you haven’t heard, Anvil are a Canadian metal band who, in the very early eighties, were on the cusp of super stardom before ‘the big four’ of Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth crushed them in their wake. Almost thirty years on, Anvil’s founding members Steve “Lips” Kudlow (vocals, guitar) and Robb Reiner (drums) are still self-releasing records and playing the odd bar gig, while working shitty jobs to survive. They look like they’ve stepped out of a time machine from 1981.

Director Sacha Gervasi has culled three years of footage into a 90 minute doco that follows Anvil on their ‘final’ tour of Europe and the release of their ‘last’ album. This isn’t about the metal scene, it isn’t about stardom or excess, it’s about two guys refusing to give up on their dream no matter what. And it’s actually quite touching. As underdogs, you can’t help falling in love with Lips’ and Rob’s boyish charms and dedication to all things Rock. The fact they live in suburbia with wives and children adds a distinct humour to the situation.

Gervasi gets laughs by focusing heavily on the tragedies faced by the band, and creates drama out of the tension this causes amongst the band and their families. It’s slightly voyeuristic at times, like laughing at some unfortunate kid who doesn’t know better. Yet overall, the film’s message is a positive one and if the recent spout of publicity is anything to go by, it’s doing wonders for the band’s profile.

There is a distinct lack of questioning around why Anvil never crossed over from cult band to fame in the first place. While watching the film one starts to wonder if Gervasi steered away from the topic so as not to embarrass his ‘stars’. Early footage of Lips wearing the most ridiculous leotard and playing his guitar with a penetrative device made from rubber, suggests that the Anvil boys lacked the maturity and business nous of their peers.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil is a fantastic watch; funny, a little sad and definitely inspiring. Here’s  hoping their current ten minutes of fame doesn’t leave them in the lurch, because although they seem like genuinely nice guys who deserve to have their hard work pay off, their outdated brand of Viking metal ain’t going to win them many fans outside of deep Europe. Highly recommended.

Watch: Kurt Cobain: About a Son

Kurt Cobain: About a Son

Dir. AJ Schnack ( 2006 )

kurt_cobain_about_a_son_cover So much has been written about Cobain and Nirvana, making it difficult to decipher the sensationalism from the truth when hearing about Generation X’s fallen idol.

However it was with great joy that I watched About a Son recently. It’s non-celebrity approach to the tale of Cobain’s life and demise is refreshing and also a little heartbreaking. Rather than feature an endless line of band mates, label execs and hangers on blowing their own horns, film maker AJ Schnack juxtaposes tape recordings of interviews between author Michael Azerrad and Cobain against a shifting carousel of imagery relating to the places and times that the singer lived in.

As viewers we don’t even get to see an image of Cobain or Nirvana until the very end of the film, and this technique only heightens the ghostly sound of his voice. It’s a powerful expression of Cobain’s loneliness as the world lay at his feet.

The interviews, which took place in the years leading up to Kurt’s death, are informal and  Cobain speaks with surprising candour. He discusses in heartfelt detail his awkward childhood, family and life on the streets.  We come to realise that Cobain wasn’t the angst ridden nihilist the media portrayed him to be (surprise!). Angry, yes, but overall he was an articulate, intelligent and even humorous guy. This insight makes the audience feel even sadder about his suicide. Maybe it didn’t have to end that way.

What I found most interesting was his relationship with the rest of Nirvana; Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. He discusses the rift established after requesting a larger share of royalties, for being the chief song writer and bearing the brunt of the tabloid craziness. Likely a common conflict among musicians, and understandably Grohl and Novoselic didn’t respond well. What’s interesting is that Grohl, for instance, has gone on to become a hugely successful pop-rock songwriter with the Foo Fighters, and one has to wonder whether Kurt was perhaps a little selfish about the writing duties within Nirvana.

It’s so easy for biographical documentaries of this nature to be apple polishing schlock. But by taking a chance with the format of his film, Schnack has created a vivid and telling recollection of the 1990’s greatest rock explosion. Highly recommended.