MIGHTY WIND, A: DVD
On the death of folk music manager Irving Steinbloom in 2003, his son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) orchestrates a memorial concert at New York’s Town Hall to reunite perfomers who Irving helped make almost famous in the 60s. The romantic duo Mitch & Mickey (Eugene Levy & Catherine O’Hara) are no longer on speaking terms but they agree; The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer) are no longer good looking youngsters, but they also agree; and so do the scattered members of the colour co-ordinated ‘neuftet’ The New Main Street Singers (featuring John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch and Parker Posey).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It’s not often that I laugh out loud at media previews … several times. I do it at Christopher Guest films, perhaps because he catches the truth with his faux-doco style in a spectacularly precise way. A combination of scenario planning and improvisational dialogue delivers a refined, oblique, insightful, risky and revealing film full of humour and surprise. His characters are complex with dark corners, created in consultation with Guest but developed through improvisation. His settings are easily accessible – eg community theatre (Waiting for Guffman) or dog show (Best in Show). He works with a cast drawn from both those productions, and they have all developed their very Guest ways of working.
A Mighty Wind is set in the nostalgia-rich scenario of a folk music reunion in New York, with a handful of folksters who strutted their guitar frets 40 years earlier, with specially written songs like Old Joe’s Place, A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow, Never Did No Wanderin’ and of course, A Mighty Wind. And they’re performed by the likes of The Folksmen (Guest is one of these), Mitch & Mickey or The New Main Street Singers. They all have colourful personal histories that are hinted at, teasing us as the ‘documentary’ unfolds with snapshots of one’s cultish faith in colours as a mystic force, or another’s career path which starts in movies for so called ‘mature tastes’. The musical genre is never ridiculed, nor are the characters: but they are seen through a prism that gives them several edges. Performance is critical, requiring nuance and subtlety – and his cast deliver. Co-writer Levy is masterful as the unbalanced Mitch, but my favourite is Fred Willard as Mike La Fontaine, manager of the New Main Street Singers, whose misplaced confidence in his own sense of humour is hilarious by virtue of being totally credible.
There is much more to A Mighty Wind than a 25 word pitch could suggest. In fact, to get an idea of how dense the film is, consider this: the final 90 minutes is condensed from over 50 hours of footage. Folks, you gotta see this.
Special Features reviews by Shannon J. Harvey:
This hysterically affectionate musical spoof is complemented with a full set of DVD features. The best feature must be the actual live taping of the reunion concert, with optional commentary from writer-director-actor Christopher Guest and writer-actor Eugene Levy, who are the driving forces behind the movie. Complete and uncut, it features all three sham bands belting out hits from the film in front of a live audience. Kudos to Parker Posey, who takes perkiness to a new level in this tuneful 20-minute track.
There are 15 additional scenes to the film with optional commentary, most featuring pointless conversations or rehearsals. Yet there are a few gems, like the press conference in which Shearer describes rap as "folk music with the melody removed and a lot of profanity thrown in", or the Main Street Singers rendition of The Good Book Song, or the even better (and not in the movie) Catheter Song, whose lyrics will make you blush. Four so-called vintage TV Appearances by The Folksmen and Mitch and Mickey (again with optional commentary) will make you laugh even more. These short tracks are hilarious, especially the one in which The Folksmen go electric and lose their fan base.
The only sour note to the DVD features is the dry, deadpan feature commentary by Guest and Levy again. It doesn't work nearly as well as the commentary on Guest's Spinal Tap, where the members of the band remained in character throughout. Despite this, A Mighty Wind's extras blows smoke up most single-disc DVD features. It's a must for fans of Christopher Guest's films and lovers of a good send up.
Published January 8, 2004
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MIGHTY WIND, A: DVD (PG)
CAST: Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr, Jennifer Coolidge, Paul Dooley, Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgin, Michael Hitchcock, Don Lake, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Larry Miller, Christopher Moynihan, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Deborah Theaker, Fred Willard
DIRECTOR: Christopher Guest
SCRIPT: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16.9 widescreen enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Additional Scenes, TV Appearances, PBN TV
Broadcast of the Concert, Theatrical Trailer, Soundtrack Spot, Cast and
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
DVD RELEASE: January 9, 2004