Release Date: Aug. 14
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Starring: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack
Cinematographers: Guillermo Navarro,
Studio/Run Time: Sony Pictures
Classics, 97 mins.
Emphasis on “Might”
At the Toronto festival where It Might
Get Loud premiered, a friend remarked to me that it "has Paste
written all over it." And sure enough, it does seem to be up our
alley. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, the director of An Inconvenient
Truth, brings Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White together to talk
about guitars and if they feel the urge, to, you know, jam a little.
The result is a film that works as a brief chronicle of each
musician's life and career—chock full of old clips, photos, concert
footage, recordings, and visits to pivotal locations—and a
testament to the allure of a particular stringed instrument. But the
much touted jam summit itself is the disappointing part, lackluster
enough to function mostly as mortar between the bricks.
To help set the stage, Guggenheim
conducts interviews with each guitarist separately. Jimmy Page takes
us through his first experiences with a guitar, then to his early
days as a studio musician, and finally up to the Yardbirds and
Zeppelin. In his segments, The Edge talks eloquently about guitar
gadgets and U2 (which is a surprise only because the lead singer of
his band is usually the one hogging the mic). And Jack White spins a
Son House record and stomps on the floor with a child dressed exactly
like him, “Jack, Age 10.” White has the least personal history to
draw on for these ruminations, but he's also the one who’s most
actively crafting his image, so his observations aren’t so much
about how he got where he is—a topic he couches in mystery—but
rather about his theories, like his need to fight the instrument. The
other guys’ histories are all but set in stone, so White’s
relative youth makes him a fascinating contrast. "My goal,"
he says on his way to the summit, "is to trick these guys into
teaching me all their tricks."
As you might expect from a project
designed to be a historic, spontaneous event, it doesn't actually
generate many real sparks. These guys have zero chemistry under the
film’s bright lights, and Guggenheim's frequent attempts to craft
unpremeditated discoveries, or to convince us that he has, generally
fall flat. Ironically, White says that audiences can tell when you're
faking on stage, and I'd wager that audiences in a movie theater can
But It Might Get Loud is still fun.
Here's an example of what I mean: In a house somewhere, The Edge
points to a box of old cassette tapes. "I have no idea what
these are," he says, and then he sticks one of them into a
player. A minute later we're listening to an early, rough recording
of the opening guitar riff to "Where the Streets Have No Name."
See, the filmmakers had no idea what was on those tapes. Pure
coincidence! And yet what fun it is to hear the riff as the band is
still working on it, to hear Bono count the odd time signature, and
to hear Edge narrate like a music-theory professor talking. The fake
spontaneity adds very little to what is already pretty cool.
My feeling about Guggenheim as a
filmmaker, based on this and An Inconvenient Truth, is that he has
such great material that his films stand up despite the often
unnecessary shaping that he tries to apply. It Might Get Loud closes
with the guys “learning” and playing "The Weight" on
acoustic guitars, and it’s shot as if the filmmakers told the trio
to bring something for the totally unexpected, impossible to foresee
jam that ends the film. There’ll be a time and a place for it.
Cameras and mics will be set accordingly.