A Mighty Wind | Spellbound

A Mighty Wind | Spellbound

Christopher Guest has carved a niche for himself as our master of the mockumentary, wreaking comic havoc by taking a serious form and filling it up with silliness. Guest began his career as pseudo-documentarian with his screenplay for Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap, a behind-the-scenes look at a hapless rock band on tour. From there he proceeded, as director, to lovingly skewer small-town theater troupers in Waiting for Guffman and dog owners in Best in Show. His terrain lies wherever modest talent meets delusions of grandeur, and cant serves as cover for a wobbly sense of self. A pretty broad swath of American culture, in other words.

A Mighty Wind is Guest’s takedown of the folk-music scene. The movie covers a memorial concert for a famed folk impresario and the three has-been acts who reunite for it: the Kingston Trioesque Folksmen; the New Main Street Singers, who resemble a grown-up Partridge Family; and a Sonny and Cher-like duo, Mitch and Mickey, whose beatific smiles at one another cover a deep, boiling magma of wrath. The music is brilliantly bad, including one number, "Barnyard Symphony," that has the audience’s aging folkies neighing and oinking in their seats-it’s like a singalong at a retirement home. As for the performers, life post-1965 has not treated them kindly. Mitch has been in and out of mental institutions, while Mickey has married a manufacturer of bladder-control products; the Main...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.