Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 21 September 2009
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
It Might Get Loud
I guess you could call this a rockumentary, but the cutesy name would not begin to do justice to the fine portrait it provides of three generations of guitar men. An appropriate alternate title could be The White Edge of a Page. Jack White (White Stripes), The Edge (U2) and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) converge on a warehouse/soundstage to discuss their leading ladies and lifelong loves (electric guitars); their early influences and philosophies are also explored.
Yes, there’s plenty of concert footage and it is as electrifying as the instruments these guys will: Classic Zeppelin and U2 in concert; Jack White with “big sister”/wife Meg as The White Stripes and with The Raconteurs. There’s also a jam session and collective play, Page confessing, “I can’t sing.” But the man can play and, along with his fellow “Loud” co-stars, takes you on a journey into his individual history.
For Page, it started with a high school skiffle band, popular in England in the 50’s, which led to stints as a respected session musician and in groups such as The Yardbirds, where his flamboyant costumes made him stand out as much as his virtuoso guitar work. And then there were the Zeppelin years. His first guitar was a coveted Stratocaster.
The Edge got together will fellow U2 band mates from a flyer posted at his Dublin secondary school and actually revisits the crude concrete stage of his first gig, standing in “his” spot. At fourteen, he and an older brother constructed a guitar from scratch, reveling in the minute complexities that produced the electric sound. He’s still in possession of his first guitar, an Explorer, and displays it for the other two during a moment of pride.
White, the youngest of ten children raised in the Detroit area, points to a bluesy infatuation from an early age, preferring and emulating the music of Son House to the hip-hop and house music that surrounded him. The minimalist is interested in coaxing sound from guitars even if they are in lessened states (broken, bent, missing components). He espouses attitude mixed with experimentation. His first guitar was a Kay he received for helping a friend move.
The trio have solo moments, and Academy Award winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) films them in their natural habitats. Page returns to Headley Grange, the legendary estate where Led Zeppelin III and IV, and Physical Graffiti were recorded. He plays Link Wray’s “Rumble” with obvious pleasure, as if discovering it for the first time. Page is an elegant icon and the other two guitar heroes are obviously in quiet awe of him. The viewer is, too.
Quiet is the word that describes The Edge – but deceptively so. The soft-spoken musician can’t get enough effects and manufactures new sounds with boxes and buttons. U2’s “bell” sound, as I like to call it, is a result of such experimentation, and a violin-sounding passage from “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is shown in all its militant glory.
Jack White’s rockabilly likeness lends itself to an elemental awareness of music and its creation. White is interested in sound, no matter how it’s born and does not demand perfection from his instruments. More like cooperation. He’ll step on guitar frets, create crude guitars with wood and Coke bottles, and sing/angst into an electronic mouthpiece, attached like an umbilical cord to his guitar.
Their separate histories lead to collective play (As I Lay Dying) and the trio reminisces, explains, and demonstrates their styles, from launch pad to liftoff. The crew can’t help but assemble in the presence of these masters, and Guggenheim shows this in an expansive shot that features the three guitar men as the nucleus of a giant cell of musical history, surrounded by the awe-struck faithful.
Fruit trays lay untouched on a table. Who can eat when the subject is guitars? When your instrument is almost an organic extension of your hands, every other object becomes a mere plaything.
Guggenheim does a skillful job at presenting his three subjects but can turn away from a train of thought abruptly, just when you want to linger. Still, it’s an engrossing portrait of three ongoing journeys where the travelers conquer electricity, amplification, and most importantly, innovation. Remember Page’s use of a cello bow on his guitar? The Edge and White do, and it influenced their strides. Lucky for us.
It Might Get Loud sounds like a warning although you’re more likely to hope it’s a promise.