Saturday, April 21, 2007

Air Guitar Nation

AIR GUITAR NATION (Alexandra Lipsitz, 2006)

AIR GUITAR NATION brings pretend rocking out of the bedroom and onto the world stage. Since 1996 Oulu, Finland has hosted the Air Guitar World Championships. The tongue-in-cheek event is based on the idea that the world would be a better place if people carried air guitars rather than weapons.

Until 2003 the United States did not have a representative in the contest. Seeking to show that you can still rock in America, two guys organized the U.S. Air Guitar Championships. The documentary follows the search for our initial ambassador of air and focuses on two dynamic performers who battle time and again with their invisible axes.

On one side is David S. Jung, who goes by the name of C-Diddy. Wearing a red robe and a Hello Kitty backpack as a breastplate, C-Diddy is a master of technical precision and comical presentation. His fiercest competitor is Dan Crane, a.k.a. Björn Türoque. (Great name and use of the heavy metal umlauts.) Björn is more of a straight-up rocker brimming with energy and an indefatigable desire to unseat prohibitive front runner C-Diddy.

If you didn't know better, you might think AIR GUITAR NATION is a mockumentary. As unlikely as it sounds, the documentary isn't a put-on. The organizers, performers, and director Alexandra Lipsitz approach the subject with humor and a knowing sense of absurdity, but their affection for air guitar antics is legitimate. Actor/comedian Jung admits that his C-Diddy shtick is really silly. How could he not acknowledge as much? Regardless, he would love to be considered the best in the world for something, even if it is air guitar playing.

AIR GUITAR NATION plucks the same note repeatedly rather than shredding arpeggios, but that single joke is strong enough to sustain a feature film. Contestants come up with endlessly creative ways to fill their sixty seconds of air guitar heroics. Costumes are integral, but showmanship is what keeps the parade of air guitarists interesting. Leg kicks, flips, air guitar tosses, and flicking picks into the audience are some of the ways performers spice up their acts.

Playing air guitar might sound like it requires no skill, but after becoming acclimated to the performance art, the talent and ingenuity that go into the craft can be appreciated. Björn Türoque's almost perfect qualifying round provides an electrifying bit of entertainment that it doesn't matter that he's on stage with nothing but attitude and conviction to burn.

AIR GUITAR NATION is as substantial as the six-stringers' instruments, but sometimes you just want to rock out without a care in the world. Sure, excelling at air guitar is a frivolous indulgence. What's the harm in the good fun the participants and onlookers are having? This very funny film should get audiences strumming along on their own air guitars and flashing devil horns in support of these masters of mock rock.

Grade: B+

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