Film When I saw A Mighty Wind, the audience member sitting next to me munched his way through a box of popcorn and didn't laugh once; but whenever I gave one of twenty or so belly laughs he turned and looked at me as though he thought it was a real documentary and I was ruining his concentration. Quite how he came to this decision with all the fake wigs and beards on display I'm not sure, but Wind is the kind of movie which will polarise an audience. Those who think it's as good as Spinal Tap and those who don't. I'm in the latter camp for reason we'll approach in the fourth paragraph but first I want to say lots of nice things.

I grew up with folk music. Right up until my teens the house would be filled with the sounds of The Spinners, Jackie and Bridie, The Horton Weavers and The Dubliners. I knew some songs by heart (still do) and more than one brings a tear to my eye. What's startling about Wind is how similar the styles are and in that sense I think I probably got more of the jokes than some of the other people in the screening. The pullovers on display on album covers for The Folksman especially were incomfortably close to the early sixties apparel of The Spinners. So when I laughed it was through an appreciation of a culture which was so clearly shared from across the atlantic and how authentic Guest and friends were being. Unlike any other popular music form, folk had a shared cultural language and it's ironic that I noticed this through a film which set out to parody exactly that thing I'm understanding more.

But it's an affectionate parody. Unlike other films of the genre it doesn't go out and set up these characters as losers. We're laughing at them in the same way we might laugh at the foubles of our own friends. Eugene Levy's Mitch might be an extra-ordinary creation, a sort of flowery Ozzy Osbourne channeling the speech patterns of the Dad from the sitcom Alf but his heart is in the right place even when he's telling the new husband of his ex-wife Mickey how he should redecorate his model railway set ("I would love to see this town in the autumn. I think Crabbeville in autumn would look quite magnificent.") to the extent that the final scenes are utterly touching. Our appreciation for the characters is also helped by a watertight chemistry between the actors, as The Folksman, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest look like they've been at it for years (and in fact they have as a side project for Spinal Tap) and The New Main Street Singers obviously have all the horrid dynamics which can be the eventual downfall of most groups. It's an extraodinary commitment to character -- Parker Posy is someone entirely different to anything she's played before and yet she's utterly convincing and never lets the mask fall even when she isn't in the limelight (which is for much of the film).

But yet in my bones I don't feel like it has the longevity of The Is Spinal Tap. Like Best in Show the subject in question doesn't have the same universal appeal as rock music and it has difficulty with being critical when it needs to be. It also lacks a centrality. At times it veers between a straight narrative and full on documentary with interviews, skipping between a kind of first and third person which can be distracting and on more than one occasion pulls us out of the film as we try to work out our point of view in a scene. In Tap, a central figure was doing a profile of a subject which meant there was something for the story such as it was to hang on to. In the final scenes when The Folksman are dashing backwards and forwards to the stage are we supposed to believe a film crew are following them into their dressing room or that we're privy to something they're not? the last thing it needs is a disembodied voice (see People Like Us) but perhaps next time they might consider a narration for cohesions sake.

Which makes me sound like I hated the film. I actually loved it and can't wait to buy the CD so that I'll have a bunch of new old new songs to learn. And the DVD so that I can learn to quote the script, because that's what films like this are ultimately for surely. "To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will."

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