Monday, April 22, 2013

Sean Kelly

Blindspot: The Cult of 2013: This is Spinal Tap

this_is_spinal_tapWe are right around the corner from the Hot Docs Film Festival, so I thought that it would only be appropriate that I choose the classic mockumentary This is Spinal Tap as the latest entry of my “Cult of 2013” blindspot series.  The film was directed by Rob Reiner and chronicles the tour of a British heavy metal band on their North American tour.

Reiner appears on screen as the documentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi, who has a crew following Spinal Tap, the loudest band of the world, on their current North American tour.  The band consists of lead singer and guitarist David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), and drummer Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell), who may be living on borrowed time, considering the band’s history of their previous drummers all dying under mysterious circumstances.  The film takes place 15 years into Spinal Tap’s career and their popularity might have begun to wane.

One thing that becomes apparent while watching This is Spinal Tap is that it still has a fairly cinematic plot, despite coming off as a documentary.  Even though the film features a number of interview segments, in which band details their history, the faux-documentary crew remains in the background as the story progresses normally on-screen.  The film is also very much a musical with a number of songs performed at the band’s concerts, of which the lyrics often feature not-so-subtle sexual innuendo.  The film is also at its funniest during the concert performances, especially when things go wrong with the band’s elaborate sets and roadies come on stage in the middle of songs to help out.  While heavy metal is the obvious inspiration for Spinal Tap’s songs, the film features many flashbacks to the bands early days in the 1960s, when they were much more of a Beatles-type group.

Speaking of The Beatles, one of the main plot points of the film involves a growing rift between childhood friends and co-founders David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel, thanks mostly to St. Hubbins' girlfriend Jeanine (June Chadwick) joining the tour and taking more control of the group’s actions.  This is obviously a reference to John Lennon becoming involved with Yoko Ono, which some say lead to the break-up of The Beatles.  The film also features features many cameos from the likes of Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Ed Begley, Jr., Fran Drescher, Anjelica Huston, and Fred Willard.

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed This is Spinal Tap.  It is quite interesting that the film became so popular that Spinal Tap became a “real band,” with there being a number of albums and concerts over the years.  Also Christopher Guest has developed quite a career directing further mockumentaries, such as Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration (all of which I should probably add to my ongoing watchlist).


Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).