New in Film for July 24, 2009

 Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Even though Anvil, a four-piece speed-metal circus that once toured with soon-to-be cash-cow longhairs like Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, never amounted to anything more than "the demigods of Canadian metal," guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner decided early on that their sole objective was "to rock forever," and at all costs. Sacha Gervasi, a British screenwriter (The Terminal) who'd roadied for Anvil as a teenager, reunites with Kudlow and Reiner for this phenomenal rockumentary whose first half follows the band on their biggest tour in 20 years to Europe. The five-week trek turns out to be a logistical nightmare: They miss trains in Sweden, get lost in Prague, and perform in Transylvania to 174 people in a 10,000-capacity arena. But that's nothing compared to later scenes of Anvil in the studio recording their 13th album with money Lips borrowed from his sister — their last-ditch attempt at mainstream recognition. Robb threatens to quit, Lips ends up crying into the camera, and everyone engages in emotionally weighted therapeutic discourse. Yet somehow, these Headbangers Ball footnotes, with their intentionally goofy groupie anthem called "Show Me Your Tits," end up being far more human and likable than the Mighty Ducks. Camille Dodero


O'Horten

The premise of this gentle existential farce from Norwegian director Bent Hamer is little more than an excuse for a series of deadpan vignettes about love, death, and the meaning of life. Forced into age-mandated retirement, longtime train engineer Odd Horten (Bård Owe) quite literally goes off the rails and spends most of the movie dazedly wandering the wintry streets of Oslo, searching a maze-like airport for a prospective buyer for his boat, chatting up the recently widowed proprietress of a tobacco shop, and — in the film's loveliest sequence — riding shotgun with an avuncular old drunkard who prides himself on the ability to drive blindfolded. Above all, Horten — like his Seuss-ian near namesake — seeks a sense of purpose. Hamer, whose Kitchen Stories tipped its hat to Tati and whose Factotum made an admirable stab at Charles Bukowski, here achieves a tone somewhere in the ballpark of Kaurismäki, with Owe's wonderfully stoic face rarely bending as he observes fellow humans in all their small-scale absurdities. The images, lit by cameraman John Christian Rosenlund, have the incandescent glow of storybook illustrations. The movie, on its own modest terms, satisfies greatly. Scott Foundas

 
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