In the late 1950's and early 1960's, a different musical voice was emerging in small cafes in New York, a voice which was quite distinctive from Doris Day and Connie Francis singing about sentimental journeys and that it's pointless to concern ourselves about the future since "whatever will be, will be". The Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, and a host of others were singing about the darker sides of modern life to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars. The Folk Music Revival as it came to be known coincided with the counter-culture movement of young people in the 1960's. This cultural phenomenon becomes fodder for the stinging bite of Christopher Guest and company in a film which pokes fun at the movement. If you lived during the era, there are many in-jokes about the people, the music and the personalities which intrigued the young Boomer Generation. Being a gen-exer, I didn't live through the era but I know a bit about its history.
"A Mighty Wind" profiles three singing groups (fictional) which were prominent in the 1960's. The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean) were probably loosely based upon the Kingston Trio. The romantic duo Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Eugene Levy) were probably inspired by a somewhat forgotten duo, Richard and Mimi Fariña. (Mickey appears to play the same instrument as Richard Farina who is probably best remembered for his novel "I've Been Down so Long It Looks Like Up to Me".) The New Main Street Singers are the most wholesome of the groups, which seems to be inspired by a group called the New Christy Minstrels which were very popular in the 1960's selling millions of records but have not withstood as well as other groups from the era, such as Peter, Paul and Mary.
The "story" is about the production of a music concert honoring an agent for many of the music groups, Irving Steinbloom (also fictional) but was probably inspired by real-life music manager Harold Leventhal whose clients included Woody and Arlo Guthrie, the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Mary Travers, and many others. The film begins with a new report about the death of Steinbloom, and the plan is to bring three music groups managed by the late agent in a special tribute concert. (Such a concert was actually held to honor Leventhal.) However, much of the silliness of Guest's mockumentary comes to the fore.
One of the best aspects of the film is the album covers which capture some of the "creativity" of the era. The first album of Mitch and Mickey is simply a black and white photo of the two with their names in a "Peter, Paul and Mary" font. Prior to circa 1960, album covers typically just featured the performer(s) often sitting quaintly with a happy smile. By the 1960's and into the 1970's, album covers became more creative even psychedelic. Two of my favorites from the film are the Main Street Singers' album "Sunny Side Up" in which the members' faces are superimposed upon eggs in a skillet and Mitch's solo album "Calling It Quits" in which he appears to be digging his own grave.
The film then follows the typical Guest nuttiness. The performers are interviewed, first relating how they became musicians, often going off on tangential stories. The Folksmen relate a story in which their records were released without the holes in the center! The Main Street Singers disbanded in the early 1970's with some of the founding members going into the Adult Book shop business! They regrouped and became The New Main Street Singers, and are even more wholesome then before. Laurie Bohner (Jane Lynch), one of the New Main Street Singers engages in rituals which have to do with color. Her husband Terry was often locked his room with Percy Faith records. Mickey's husband has an elaborate train set which he shows and demonstrates to Mitch.
Overall an enjoyable spoof of the folk music culture. It has many of the same elements as "This is Spinal Tap" but is a bit more culturally softer than Guest's first try with a heavy metal rock band. Guest's writing is best in subjects which he knows. "Spinal Tap", "Waiting for Guffman" and "A Mighty Wind" are all subjects connected with arts and entertainment. His foray into other subjects, such as "Best in Show" and "Mascots" are much weaker probably because he doesn't know these subjects as well.
A Mighty Wind
Action / Comedy / Music
A Mighty Wind
Action / Comedy / Music
When folk icon Irving Steinbloom passed away, he left behind a legacy of music and a family of performers he has shepherded to folk stardom. To celebrate a life spent submerged in folk, Irving's loving son Jonathan has decided to put together a memorial concert featuring some of Steinbloom's best-loved musicians. There's Mitch and Mickey, who were the epitome of young love until their partnership was torn apart by heartbreak; classic troubadours The Folksmen, whose records were endlessly entertaining for anyone able to punch a hole in the center to play them; and The New Main Street Singers, the most meticulously color-coordinated neuftet ever to hit an amusement park. Now for one night only in New York City's Town Hall, these three groups will reunite and gather together to celebrate the music that almost made them famous.
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February 11, 2016 at 04:43 AM