Saturday, April 4, 2015

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)


Director: Rob Reiner
Writers:  Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner
Cast:       Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner


Spinal tap, one of England's loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DeBergi on what proves to be a fateful US tour. Rob Reiner plays the role of Marty who is making the 'Rockumentary' and the actual film turns out to be a mockumentary. Spinal Tap justifies their claim of being England's loudest band by having an amplifier that can be turned up to eleven instead of the usual 10. As a homage to possibly film's most memorable sequence, IMDB shows it rating to be out of eleven instead of the usual ten.

Film didn't do very well when it was released but went on to gain a cult following since its home video release. Many rock bands have admitted that they saw few of their own experiences in the film in one way or the other. Many people thought when the film released  that an actual band called Spinal Tap existed and this was an actual documentary. The documentary way in which it is filmed makes it a very non-slapstick approach to comedy and the reactions by the band members as they bullshit their way through interviews trying to sound deep are hilarious. I hate it when filmmakers kind of lingers on at a comedic moment after the punchline as if they are gloating about their own cleverness, making sure that audience got the joke. This film doesn't do that in anyway whatsoever and so there is no spoon-feeding. You get all the 60s & 70s rock band tropes like pretentious existentialism, band members ending up dead suffocating on vomit, in you face sexualization , mystic hippy vibe, a Yoko Ono like girlfriend derailing things etc. Metallica's Black Album is a reference to Spinal Tap's 'Smell the Glove' which in the film was released in a black cover after their original cover idea of having a naked girl on all fours in a leash being made to smell a glove was deemed sexist (What is wrong with being sexy?). Spinal Tap has become a verb now in rock lingo.

This was a re-watch for me after seeing it for the first time some four years back. The character name Marty DeBergi is an homage to Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Spielberg, Fellini and Antonioni. Rob Reiner did his best two works very early in his career with the other one besides 'This is Spinal Tap' being 'Stand By Me'. Apart from these I have only seen 'A Few Good Men' which was an alright film made famous by that hilarious yet powerful monologue from Jack Nicholson. Am gonna check out 'When Harry met Sally...' soon.

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

Rating: 4.5/5