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  Mighty Wind, A It's Blowing You And Me
Year: 2003
Director: Christopher Guest
Stars: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Ed Begley Jr, Jennifer Coolidge, Larry Miller, Paul Dooley, Bill Cobbs
Genre: Comedy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Irving Steinbloom has passed away, a major figure in the world of American folk music which reached its apex of popularity in the early-to-mid nineteen-sixties. But time moves on, and rock became the defining sound of popular music, while the folkies of those days saw their profile dip significantly. Nevertheless, they still have their nostalgic fans, and three of the acts who Steinbloom managed are asked by his son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) to reunite for a commemorative concert in his father's honour. While two of those groups, The New Main Street Singers and the Folksmen, are happy to contribute, the third, Mitch and Mickey, is less certain, for Mitch (Eugene Levy) is unwell...

Director and deviser of improvised comedy Christopher Guest is always going to be known as the co-creator of This is Spinal Tap, one of the most indelible monuments to both rock music and dedicated absurdity the big screen has ever seen, but after that was done and dusted, he may have returned to it periodically, yet he had other ideas as well. One of them was to do for a very specific brand of sixties folk musician what he had done for heavy metal, and A Mighty Wind was the result, hitting many of the same beats, so to speak, but also its own entity and heading in its own direction. One thing was assured: Guest was drawn to the less fortunate whose worlds revolve around obsessions.

His characters in each of his movies were fixated on one thing to the detriment of everything else in their lives, and that could make them very happy or very unhappy, often in the space of a matter of minutes depending on which way events could turn. The music elates the musicians in this, but it might not be the healthiest thing to pursue your muse when, like Mitch, it means you are not looking after yourself and those around you (if there are any left) to the level that will keep you safe and balanced, and he was the heart of the story, a sixties survivor whose tale may be played for laughs for the most part, but is emblematic of an artistic type whose talent got away from them.

It's no spoiler to reveal that Mitch is in pretty much the same state he was at the end of the film as he was at the beginning, and if you were chuckling away throughout you may miss the pathos of a man hanging onto his past because his future is not worth participating in. Levy was giving a comedy performance, there's no doubt about it, and this was a silly film about silly people, but contained therein was a genuine resonance that Guest could have mined for cruel fun as many of his imitators would have, yet he resisted that admirably. Elsewhere, The New Main Street Singers were ludicrously upbeat and cheesy, and The Folksmen were deadly serious about their art yet just as cheesy as the other group they grumble about not being authentic enough, oblivious to their character.

The Folksmen were played by the three members (sans exploding drummer) of Spinal Tap, Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (who gets a pre-credits punchline that is daft and also leaves you unsure whether to laugh at him in the twenty-first century climate). Their improvisatory skills remained as impressive as ever, and it was pleasing for comedy fans to watch them riff on increasingly idiotic topics, but Guest had faith in his other cast too, with Jane Lynch standout as a cheery ex-adult entertainment star who now sings and has invented her own religion, a type you imagine California knows very well. Also a reliable quipster was Fred Willard as the ex-standup buffoon of a manager who keeps attempting to crowbar his terrible ideas into the Main Street band's act, complete with corny catchphrases and light air of sleaze. But more than anything, those songs were superb, sounding perfectly authentic until you realised what the performers were singing - if not everyone would get that joke, that made it all the sweeter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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