A Mighty Wind (1 10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 I donít understand this movie.  I was a big fan of folk music, still am.  Starting with The Kingston Trio in the Ď50s and throughout the Ď60s, I listened to, and liked them all.  The music was captivating, the performers talented.  Melodic, great lyrics, wonderful rhythms, whatís not to like?

 Thatís why this movie is so mystifying.  Itís a ďmockumentary,Ē a self-styled parody about a group of fictional Ď60s folk singers who are getting together for a retrospective concert.  But the classic of this youthful genre, This is Spinal Tap, made fun of things that were there to be made fun of.  This makes fun of things that never were.  It tries to picture the writers and performers of folk music as naÔve, untalented squares.  Woody Guthrie a square? Bob Dylan a square?  The Smothers Brothers squares?  I donít think so. Just think for a minute of the great folk artists of the Ď50s-Ď70s; The Byrds, The Highwaymen, New Christy Minstrels, Bud and Travis, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, The Mommas and the Poppas, Joni Mitchell, The Brothers Four; I could go on and on.  And the great music!  Turn! Turn! Turn!, Lemon Tree, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, Greenfields, Both Sides Now, the list is almost never-ending.

 Writer-Director Christopher Guest just doesnít know what heís talking about here.  The music, which seems to have been originally written for the movie, contains lyrics that are, to give them the best of it, inane.  To the contrary, writers of folk music have always had their message.  Their lyrics have a point.  Generally they contain sharp political commentary or tell a story.  Why does Guest want to diminish such message songs as Blowiní In The Wind and Thereís Something Happening Here, or songs that tell a history like Creeque Alley, or patriotic songs like This Land is Your Land, and many, many others by trying to paint all folk music with the wide swath of the vacuous lyrics he foists upon us in this movie?  Is he just nescient?  Is he irresponsible and going for a cheap laugh? Or is he intentionally trying to belittle, even slander, folk music and its artists?  Whatever his motives, this movie is the cheapest of shots, made without any discernable reason other than greed. 

 Whoís he basing these characters on?  Nobody in the picture correlates to anyone in real life of whom I am aware.  I didnít recognize a parody of anybody I knew in the heyday of folk.  One character, a guy whose brain had apparently been melted down by excessive drug usage and who could barely talk coherently, could have been based on Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys.  The only problem is that Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys did not write or sing folk music (well, they did have a hit with Sloop John B, but Wilson didnít write it, and he recorded it as an homage to The Kingston Trio, who also had a version of it with a different arrangement).  Director Guest tries to create a picture of all the great folk artists as naÔve airheads.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

 I just donít understand this movie or the reason it was made (well, greed, irresponsibility, and ignorance come to mind).  Itís not that you canít laugh or find something amusing about folk music.  That, after all, was what The Smothers Brothers were about. This has some mildly amusing lines but they donít make sense because the entire film is so off target.  If Guest wanted to attack Folk Music, he could have made fun of the political points of view.  But to try to paint the artists as dopes and the music as lame is just dead wrong.  If you donít know anything about folk music, or donít like it, youíll probably find this amusing.  If you are a fan, as I am, The Mighty Wind is misleading, inaccurate, and reprehensible.  I loathe the lack of integrity that went into making it and the dearth of respect and consideration for the many talented artists it libels.

 May 3, 2003

 The End