“This isn’t the actors’ studio. We’re not insane, we just want to make movies.”
Seriously, Christopher Guest is not crazy. Sure he’s been seen with numerous alter egos on stage and screen. You may remember him as eccentric guitarist Nigel Tufnel of This is Spinal Tap fame.
Whatever your recollections; Guest is not as loony as his creations.
Sitting alongside longtime collaborator Eugene Levy, Guest does not seem to embody the quirkiness of his films. Truth be told, Levy doesn’t either. Clearly there is more to these men than their antics would imply.
Masters of the improvisational “docu-comedy,” Guest and Levy have made a name for themselves producing a style of cinema that you simply cannot find anywhere else.
“What we do here is not like a regular job in the movies,” Guest said. “There’s no rehearsal time for us, you just get in front of the camera and talk.”
Guest’s films employ a motley group of comic actors, who have appeared in multiple films under Guest’s direction.
“This is a group of people who really know each other and respect each other’s work,” Guest said. “It’s real fun, especially since there’s nowhere else where you can do it.”
“I think that’s the key thing,” added Levy. “These are all people who are great at what they do. On top of that, there really is nowhere else you can do this.”
The duo’s latest release, A Mighty Wind focuses on a struggling folk music scene, following its attempts to put together the “perfect” dedication concert. There’s a quasi-This is Spinal Tap-type reunion here, bringing together the stars of the rock documentary spoof.
The characters are, as usual, improvisational and impressive in their dignified absurdity.
Guest’s movies are often classified as film “mockumentaries.” This label is one to which Guest feels no affinity.
“I don’t like to classify anything, truthfully,” Guest said. “I don’t like the term ‘mockumentary’ because I’m not really mocking anyone, it’s just comedy done in a documentary style. I think to label things is for people who don’t know what to say or do.”
The films that Guest and Levy create are not exactly standard pieces of Hollywood comedy. Often you begin to laugh without being exactly sure if you’re supposed to be laughing. No worries, of course, it’s all part of the act. “It’s the kind of comedy that raises the line of reality very close to fiction,” Levy said. “You wonder if it’s real or if you’re even supposed to find it funny.”
On the whole, Guest and Levy do what they do for pretty humble reasons, to make themselves laugh. The rationale behind the bizarre worlds Guest presents hold no alternate motives. In Guests’ opinion, “it’s funny, it’s just more fun, and when we get to do it, it’s a real treat.”