In which we suggest an evening of jest with Christopher Guest
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8 Sep 2017 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2017 - 2:26 PM

We know it can be overwhelming to choose a movie from the 900+ now streaming at SBS On Demand. In this new series, we suggest movies best watched back-to-back (i.e. 'Watch this, then that'). 

If you want a quick reason to watch the two Christopher Guest comedies at SBS On Demand back to back, check the 2017 international film critics poll the BBC conducted to find the 100 best comedies of all time. No less than three titles starring and co-written (and in two cases, directed) by Guest crop up. To place that in context, this equals the tally of Woody Allen, Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati and is only one less than the listed films by all-time legends Charlie Chaplin and Ernst Lubitsch.

One of those honoured titles is the small-town amateur-dramatics laugh riot Waiting for Guffman (1996), which stars a different version of the ensemble the UK-born peer of the realm had assembled to such devastating success for heavy metal mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. Rob Reiner had directed that title and with his elevated reputation he’d hoovered up much of the credit, at least in the public mind.

Marking Guest’s directorial debut, the hilarious Guffman (another mock documentary) proved that Tap’s comedic brilliance had been hugely shaped by its lead performers. Guffman found key collaborators Michael McKean and Harry Shearer working behind the scenes on music and lyrics, replaced on screen by Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Bob Balaban, who all adapted perfectly to the Guest method whereby comic routines and characterisations were built-up via improvisation during the film’s production.

They're all fabulous here but most memorable of all is Guest as the show’s perpetually optimistic stage director, Corky St. Clair. While a few critics bridled at the character’s extravagant campness, seeing it as gay stereotyping, most reviewers divined Guest’s fondness for the character – we laugh at Corky not from cruelty but out of empathy.

Guest’s regular ensemble would sustain several more comedies including 2003’s A Mighty Wind, another musical spoof, this time the American folk boom of the early 1960s. These were the years of Peter, Paul and Mary and Pete Seeger – an era the group delights in tearing apart for the crimes of tweeness and earnest sincerity. Again, it must be said, with huge fondness.

 

  

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