It Might Get Loud
by Jef Burnham
In limited release on August 14, 2009.
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It Might Get Loud opens on Jack White (of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs) building a fully functional, one-string, electric guitar out of a board and a Coke bottle as cows graze in the background at his home in the country. It is easy to forget that this is rock n’ roll, when the radio is populated by cookie-cutter pretty boys who will never know anything of innovation. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) understands that rock n’ roll is not about pop appeal, but about that music that springs from urgency and innovation—from people like Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page, who heard a sound in their head that they imperatively had to realize.
Guggenheim takes White, The Edge, and Page—three generations of influential guitarists—and sticks them in a room to see what happen. As Jack says, “When the three of us get together, what’s gonna happen? Probably a fist fight.” Well, maybe that doesn’t happen exactly, but what we get is three incredible musicians jamming with some of the greatest songs ever written, from their own repertoires to The Band’s “The Weight.”
The film also takes us through the histories of the three musicians with insights into their generations of musicians and rare footage of the men in their early days. The best of these is the footage of a young teen Page playing sciffle with other teens on a television show. After they play, the host asks Page if he wants to be a musician after school and Page tells him that he wants to go into “biological research.”
There is also some bizarre footage of The White Stripes playing in front of a group of older gentlemen in uniforms, who don’t seem the ideal audience for The Stripes’ music. And in what is for me, as a Jack White fan, one of the film’s most significant scenes, we actually watch Jack write a brand new song on screen and perform it.
You don’t have to be a fan of these musicians to benefit from It Might Get Loud. I entered the film as a longtime fan of Page, a devoted Jack White fan, and with admittedly little interest in The Edge (I am not a fan of U2’s recent work); and left with an even greater deal of respect for White and Page and discovered a newfound appreciation for The Edge as an artist and his role in the development of rock. It Might Get Loud is, in so deftly capturing the spirit of rock, every bit as brilliant as the three musicians themselves.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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