A Mighty Wind

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)
Japanese title: Minna no Uta
Director: Christopher Guest
Running time: 92 minutes
Language: English
Opens Jan. 31
[See Japan Times movie listings]

Christopher Guest is gradually carving out a niche for himself as the master of the "mockumentary," a faux-documentary that aims to take the piss out of the subject at hand. After starring in and collaborating on the legendary hard-rock satire "Spinal Tap" in 1984, Guest has been busy of late, working with a regular group of improv-comedy specialists and directing "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and his latest, "A Mighty Wind."

Where "Spinal Tap" skewered the air-headed pretensions of pampered hard-rock arena bands, "A Mighty Wind" locks its sights on the overly earnest, anachronistic ways of the modern American folk-music scene. "What folk-music scene?" I hear you saying, and that's half the joke. Where the fading metal-heads of Spinal Tap found a happy ending with a successful tour of Japan, "A Mighty Wind" shows us bands that are a good three decades-plus past their sell-by date, their happy end being -- shudder -- a live broadcast on a local NPR affiliate station.

The jokes here are at the expense of "revival" concerts, where pop-music moments are embalmed and displayed for our perusal, more as cultural artifacts than vital musical units. It's the great irony of pop culture: always of the moment and youth-oriented, it's impossible for it to age gracefully. Anyone who's seen The Ventures play in Japan will know what I mean.