AIR GUITAR NATION: Bjorn Turoque is born to compete.
Hey, you American Idol drudges, exit your cave for a contest just as colossally dumb but a gazillion times zanier: Alexandra Lipsitz’s documentary Air Guitar Nation, which plays Saturday night, at SPACE Gallery. I’m still spinning in ecstasy from all those crazy folks flailing away to classic recordings on imagined guitars. “You don’t have to be a rock star to be a rock star,” say those bitten by the performance bug, morphing into Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. What is “air guitar?” Those in the film describe the indescribable. “It’s performance art.” “The axes are invisible, the chops are real.” “It’s like figure skating, but less absurd.” “To err is human, to air-guitar is divine.”
A founder of the annual world championship in Oulu, Finland, suggests that air-guitaring may be the secret to world peace: “You can’t hold a gun and a guitar at the same time.” A former global winner leads a seminar there on “Zen and the Art of Air Guitar,” and the American contestants who come to Finland arrive with a pacifist message: “Make air, not war. The US right now is so fucked up.” Bush and Cheney in Iraq, seen in a disapproving montage, are the anti-Christs of air guitar.
The film, like myriad documentaries and TV shows, is built around a series of contests: the East Coast runoff in New York, the American championship in LA, and, finally, the big one in Finland, 2003, where for the first time two Americans are competing for the world title. Lots of contestants are shown briefly doing their kick-ass shtick, but filmmaker Lipsitz settles in smartly with our nation’s two best talents: a nice Asian boy and a nice Jewish boy, both gone mad with air-guitaring. Korean-American David Jung is a smiling affable actor comedian who on stage turns into the karate-outfitted “C-Diddy;” his sleek, funny guitar routines are something like Toshiro Mifune meets Hello Kitty. Dan Crane is a wry, intelligent young man who becomes, quite easily for him, the trash-talking egomaniac “Bjorn Turoque,” an escapee from The Nutty Professor. Crane aptly describes his Buddy Love–like stage-performer alter ego: “Bjorn is kind of cocky, kind of a dick, like early interviews with Bob Dylan.”
We watch C. Diddy smash Bjorn Turoque in contest after contest, but Bjorn refuses to capitulate. The more he finishes behind, the funnier his rap as an undisguised bitter loser. When C. Diddy is invited onto The Jimmy Kimmel Show, Bjorn begs himself onto a TV meeting with Carson Daly an hour later into the broadcast night. When C. Diddy wins the trip to Finland, the vanquished Bjorn sets up a Web site to solicit cash for his plane fare. He too shows up in Oulu.
Who triumphs? Fork out and find out at SPACE.
Air Guitar Nation | 8 pm April 28 | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | 207.828.5600