The pope, the mole and the architect

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It Might Get Loud (PG). Running time: 94 minutes. Director: David Guggenheim. Starring. Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White

Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge, in It Might Get LoudThis is a film about the electric guitar. It unites three of the instrument's most prolific proponents of the past four decades. While they may share a musical instrument of choice, three more diverse musicians you could hardly hope to find.

Jimmy Page, lead guitarist of 1960s and '70s English heavy metal pioneers Led Zeppelin, seems to draw his gift from a divine conduit. The former session musician reflects that, with 'the Zep', he relished the freedom to build and accelerate towards an ethereal aural plateau. If rock music is spiritual, somewhere between sex and prayer, then he is its pope.

The Edge is described as a sonic architect. As lead guitarist of Irish rock band U2 for more than 30 years, he layers simple chords with myriad guitar effects, so that each song sounds subtly or strikingly different; stark, shimmering or sublime. A guitar tech enthuses that during a set of 36 songs, The Edge might not use the same guitar sound twice.

With due respect to The Edge, Jack White, frontman of 2000s American indie bands The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, says technology is the enemy of creativity. He is a musical mole, burrowing into history, dragging back his favourite blues influences, and spreading them, still muddy, across his backyard. At the start of the film, White is shown constructing a rudimentary guitar from a lump of wood, a glass bottle and a length of wire. To him, less equals pure.

It Might Get Loud gathers these three diverse talents, and their guitars, in a warehouse, where, both together and apart, they reflect upon their backgrounds, their influences, their evolution as musicians, and, most importantly, their philosophies about music itself.

This is not a chronology, although there are scraps of history. We see the high school notice board that famously drew the members of U2 together, and the concrete platform in the schoolyard that was their first stage. We visit Headley Grange, the Victorian homestead in East Hampshire, England, whose acoustics lent a distinctive sound to the recording of Led Zeppelin's fourth album.

And we revisit the sources of seminal songs, such as the political violence in Northern Ireland that inspired The Edge to write 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'. White, in silent awe, plays us a recording of his own favourite song, a stark blues track — nothing but a lyric, an attitude, and some arrhythmic handclapping — which, he says, is the song to which he aspired with every new White Stripes song he wrote.

Mostly, this is a meditation, and certain moments will stay with you: The Edge finding an old tape of him laying down the dexterous lick from 'Where the Streets Have No Name', with Bono counting time in the background; the blood smeared across White's guitar following a rip-roaring Raconteurs guitar solo (all that digging takes its toll).

More important are the moments that simmer celebrity and artistic pretension down to basic humanity: see the look of wonder on The Edge's and White's faces as Page belts out the trademark riff from'Whole Lotta Love', and Page playing air guitar to his own favourite songs, grinning like a kid the whole time; even idols have their idols.

The film's director, Guggenheim, is the man who brought Al Gore's climate change lecture to the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth. That film married Gore's blunt and captivating message, to insights into Gore's own nature. The stakes in It Might Get Loud are not as high, nor the motive as serious, but the result is as memorable.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. His articles and reviews have been published by Melbourne's The Age, Inside Film, the Brisbane Courier-Mail and The Big Issue. He was Chair of the Interfaith Jury at the 2009 St George Brisbane International Film Festival.

Topic tags: it might get loud, jack white, white stripes, raconteurs, jimmy page, yardbirds, led zeppelin, the edge, u2



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Even though I am an oldie, real old, where is this film on or available - I won't miss it I hope, thanks, margaret
margaret o'reilly | 29 October 2009


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