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Blowing in the Wind
A Mighty Wind (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
A Mighty Wind (DVD)
Advantages: Intelligent, witty film with some great moments of inspired comedy
Disadvantages: The Music!
Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean are still best known for their brilliant spoof rockumentary ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ almost 20 years later they’re back but this time as a folk band form the 60’s trying to re-launch their career.
In the same way that ‘Spinal Tap’ pretended to be a documentary about the Rock band Spinal Tap A mighty wind follows in a documentary style the setting up and performance of a folk reunion concert featuring top folk band from the 60’s 'The Main Street Singers', 'The Folksmen' and 'Mitch and Mickey' as a tribute for legendary folk impresario Irving Steinbloom.
Of course as in Spinal Tap all the characters and bands are fictitious but if you are not careful you could be taken in to believing it. In spinal tap the band was a parody of all the hair metal bands of the time and in the same way the bands in A Mighty Wind show more than a passing resemblance to the folk bands of the 60’s; The Seekers, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Sonny and Cher, Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel as well as many others can all be glimpsed at various points. The film is largely improvised with the actor just being given the details of a scene to then play in character. This produced the realistic style of talking to camera that is seen in straight documentaries. The jokes are subtle and sometimes sneak up on you as a seemingly straight interview the kind of you have seen countless times on various music documentaries suddenly veers off in to the absurd but always done perfectly seriously by the actors.
The film follows in classic documentary style the attempts of the neurotic Jonathon Steinbloom loving son of the late folk music promoter Irving Steinbloom to organise a tribute concert for his father featuring the folk bands that he brought to prominence in the 60’s folk music boom. Three very different bands are tracked down, The Main Street Singers (now called the New Main Street Singers) are still performing but feature no original members who specialise in happy-clappy, sickly sweet folk music, The Folksmen are more from the political end of the folk world and although they have not played together in years are the one band to have had a chart hit and finally the folk duo Mitch and Mickey. Mitch Cohen had been the serious singer songwriter who teamed up with his then girlfriend Mickey Crabbe to form the lovey-dovey Mitch and Mickey. These days however Mitch has serious mental problems and under strict medication while Mickey is happily married to a surgical appliance sales man with a love of model trains…getting everyone back together and making sure they perform on the night is not a easy task…
THE CAST, PEFORMANCES AND MUSIC
Harry Shearer .... Mark Shubb
Michael McKean .... Jerry Palter
Christopher Guest .... Alan Barrows
Eugene Levy .... Mitch Cohen
Catherine O'Hara .... Mickey Crabbe
Bob Balaban .... Jonathan Steinbloom
Jane Lynch .... Laurie Bohner
John Michael Higgins .... Terry Bohner
Fred Willard .... Mike LaFontaine
Ed Begley Jr. .... Lars Olfen
This is a very intelligent and beautifully observed film. The laughs are not belly laughs and there is no slapstick humour, the only soundtrack is the music the bands perform and the documentary feel is extremely accurate. I found the recounting of the bands histories in ‘old footage flash back’ was extremely convincing at the same time as being obviously a spoof. The sickly sweet image of the Main Street singers is contrasted with the fact that they are believers in a weird deity based on the power of colours and partaking in strange rituals as well as one of the members being an ex porn star…again you feel this might not be a farfetched as all that seeing some of the real life groups from that period!
Another great moment is the Folksmen telling us of their early days in the business and their first record deal. The record label was a very small amateurish set up so much so that they forgot to punch the whole in the centre of the vinyl records…still the music was good if you good make a whole yourself and play it!
Individual performances including some excellent cameos are universally excellent. Shearer, McKean and Guest once again take to their band member roles effortlessly and you can almost imagine that The Folksmen could be an older and mellowed out version of Spinal Tap! Eugene Levy better known as the dad in the American Pies movies is outstanding as the unbalanced Mitch once the star of the folk scene but now a rambling and vulnerable individual who has to be released form a mental home to perform. There are great cameos from Ed Begley Jr as the TV executive who sets up the show and Michael Hitchcock the stressed out manager of the ‘Town Hall’ venue where the concert is being performed. Fred Willard is also excellent as Mike LaFontaine the smarmy and slightly deranged ex TV host and now manager of the ‘New Main Street Singers’.
One more aspect of the film that is worth mentioning is the music. Yes it is very cheesy and very cliché but it is a brilliant parody of the folk genre as is the way that the songs are performed. Some great Spoof ballad such as ‘Old Joe's Place’, ‘Never Did No Wanderin', ‘Potato's In The Paddy Wagon’, ‘Blood On The Coal’, ‘Just That Kinda Day’ and the song that gave us the title ‘A Mighty Wind’!…a soundtrack CD is available.
The music and lyrics are down to Cristopher Guest who has managed once again to perfectly catch the essence and pay tribute of the musical genre (just as he did with rock in Spinal Tap) whilst at the same time gently subverting the music and producing a very clever comic parody.
You feel just like in Spinal Tap that this film would get even better on more viewings as more subtle jokes would surface each time. An interest in folk music is not essential and knowledge of the artist that are being parodies is also not needed most people are familiar enough with the warbling sounds of the classic folk performers to get the joke.
Surprisingly the DVD version is no longer available to buy in the UK although a rental version is still on release and at the moment the soundtrack is only available on CD in the US.
The DVD features include a choice of audio sound track either in English or French both using Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are also available in English, Spanish and French. The quality of the picture and sound is excellent. The scene selection option and chapter selection is adequate and the menu navigation is easy to use.
There are a fair amount of special features included on the DVD the best of which is a commentary option by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, which is at times amusing and insightful. Very often these additional commentaries are not worth having and it sounds like the commentators have been forced to cobble something together in order to pad out the DVD features but in this case the information and comments are informative and add something to the overall enjoyment of the film once the film has been seen on its own.
A lot of additional scenes have also been included on the DVD and these are interesting to view but none would actually I feel have added anything to the film as it stands although a couple of unused songs in particular one ‘The Good Book’ by the New Main Street Singers is worth seeing.
The spoof element of the film carries on to the DVD features as a TV broadcast of the concert has been included. This was a special sequence that was filmed on TV cameras to give and authentic feel to the concert broadcast and is just another example of the attention to detail that the makers of the film have used even when thinking of the DVD release.
Further TV appearances by the groups featured in the film are included in a ‘Vintage’ TV appearances section, which does include some fuller versions of exerts used in the film.
Finally the musical biographies of the each of the ‘spoof’ groups in also included.
The DVD package is good and is worth seeing, it will add to your overall enjoyment of the film.
Overall ‘A Mighty Wind’ is a very intelligent docu/film parody that will amuse you give you some great laughs and may even get your feet tapping? …(maybe not..).
Thanks for reading and rating this review!
© Mauri 2005
Summary: A fantastic spoof 'folkumentary' from the makers of Spinal Tap