KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando reviews the new documentary "It Might Get Loud"
Related Story: It Might Get Loud
KPBS FM Film Review: "It Might Get Loud"
By Beth Accomando
Air date: August 27, 2009
If you’ve ever played air guitar, here's the perfect film for you, "It Might Get Loud." This documentary is a valentine from three rock musicians to the electric guitar. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this review.
LOUD(ba).wav SOQ 3:51 (music out at 5:11)
(Tag:) "It Might Get Loud" opens tomorrow (Friday August 27) at Landmark's Ken Cinema. You can find more of Beth's reviews as well as the latest trailers at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.
JIMMY PAGE: Knowing there was a threshold on volume I wanted to get more sustain out of things…
"It Might Get Loud" opens with a brilliant do-it-yourself demonstration by Jack White. He whips together a single stringed electric slide guitar from a piece of wood, a couple nails, a length of wire, and a Coke bottle.
CLIP JACK WHITE: (SFX of hammering nails then playing a note) "Who says
you have to buy a guitar."
The premise of the film is simple: take three generations of rock musicians, throw them and a few instruments in a room together, and see what happens.
CLIP JACK WHITE: Probably be a fist fight…
No fisticuffs but a lot of mutual admiration. White is the youngest of the bunch and still has something to prove. Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page is a classic rock legend and he describes U2's The Edge as a “sonic architect.” The varying philosophies of the three artists drive the film. The Edge is fascinated by technology.
CLIP THE EDGE: “I'm very interested in what hardware can do to an electric guitar sound…”
On the other hand, White suggests that technology makes things easier but at a cost.
CLIP JACK WHITE: “Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth… that's the disease you have to fight in any field, ease of use…”
These differences are visible in the old plastic Airline guitar White has used for a decade with the White Stripes, and the multiple guitars, each one calibrated for a specific song, that the Edge uses with U2. Then you have Page who's prone to romantic analogies equating the curves of his guitar with the female form.
CLIP JIMMY PAGE: “…like a woman you know, you can caress it like a woman.”
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim gives his film a casual structure, as if we’re just sitting in on a jam session. He gets each man to talk about his career and about the changes each has seen. Page talks about pushing the threshold on volume with new inventions.
CLIP JIMMY PAGE: “a distortion pedal which overloads the signal overdrive the sound and make it sound pretty rude…”
The Edge is all about experimentation.
CLIP THE EDGE: “I drive everyone crazy trying to get the sound I hear in my head to come out of the speakers, that's my voice…”
The Edge gives clear examples of what he's talking about.
CLIP “I got totally into listening to the return echo like two guitar players, the exact same thing but a little off to one side and I thought of ways to use it like no one else had…”
Guggenheim also gets the musicians to open up. White talks a lot about honesty and truth but likes to hide behind a carefully constructed persona.
CLIP JACK WHITE: “By having a brother and sister band… red, white, and black was the complete aesthetic, it was childish, almost cartoonish, a lot of distractions from what was really going on which was just that we were trying to play this.”
“This” being the blues by the likes of Son House. Page for his part reflects on the self-indulgent solos popular back in the70s and spoofed in the film "This is Spinal Tap."
CLIP JIMMY PAGE: “Spinal Tap” was a movie I watched. I didn't laugh, I wept it was so close to the truth… ”
It's fun to see all three men hanging out, playing riffs of favorite songs, reminiscing about the music they love, and trying to steal a little from each other along the way. Guggenheim captures them in a relaxed atmosphere and being themselves. So when Page plays a few notes of "A Whole Lotta Love," the reaction from The Edge and White is priceless, it's the wonder and delight of gawking fanboys. And at 65, Page is still himself a fanboy with a passion for rock and roll and cranking it up to 11.
CLIP JIMMY PAGE: “Okay it might get loud for a second…”
For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando.
Music: “Whole Lotta Love”