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The ZONE - genre nonfiction
Soundchecks - music reviews
Rotary Action - helicopter movies
featuring: Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge
director: Davis Guggenheim
93 minutes (E) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail
review by James A. Stewart
It Might Get Loud
In this 'rockumentary', Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) brings together three of the most influential guitar
players of the last half century to basically chaff about their experiences, creative process and anything else guitar related. In It Might Get
Loud, Guggenheim cleverly fuses a triumvirate who not only represent three distinct eras in the guitar's progression - from skiffle beatniks
through to today's not insignificant place in popular music - but who are also very different in their style and approach to guitar playing. It is
the guitar equivalent of the generation game.
The underlying premise of the movie is to celebrate the versatility and history of the guitar and by having to hand The Edge (U2), Jack White (The
Raconteurs, The White Stripes), and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin, Yardbirds). Guggenheim's job becomes easy and, in a wonderfully understated way, he
allows the documentary to film itself as it flits between a group chat between the three, and their own pieces. It is in the latter where the real
strength of the film lies.
The opening scenes show each of the three talking about their views on the guitar, The Edge's love for experimentation with effects and sounds is
clear, as is his disdain for '16 minute' solos (you listening, Jimmy). Jack White then exudes the character of an eccentric who believes, "whatever
makes guitar playing easy constricts the creative process" (you listening, Edge). Then, Jimmy Page, bless him, comes in and just basically shows
the two pretenders up by reminding us just how many of rock's greatest riffs came from his nimble fingers.
Again, this is part of the allure, there is a conflict between the three styles and eras but what Guggenheim does well is to remind us that it is
the same instrument after all. For example, the scene when all three guitarists are playing Zeppelin's In My Time Of Dying, taking turns to
show their skill with some rather dirty slide, is outstanding.
Each guitarist has their own time on screen. The Edge really does come across as the accidental hero, a man who plays on his limitations as a
technician; but as an innovator of sounds his influence is at times undervalued by guitar pursuits who think because he can't do the equivalent
of musical masturbation down the neck he is a poor guitarist. His love for experimentation comes across loud and clear.
Jack White loves to experiment but in different ways, and it is clear his music collection consists mainly of early blues work and whist he is
somewhat, well, weird, he has a very minimalist approach to his music. White's adaptability as a musician is, much like The Edge but for different
reasons, overlooked due to his propensity to distort everything and keep it simple. But, again, he is a wholesome musician who shows an unerring
love for turning basic ideas, and equipment (including furniture) into a coherent and enjoyable sound.
Then there is the star of the show; who also happened to produce the movie, and select the other two guitarists. No matter how much he tries not
to be, Jimmy Page is the main man. His riffs, his stories, his affable charm (yes, I know he's a 'Satanist', ahem) just comes across as a man who
has an undying love for music and his guitar. Seeing the smiles on the faces of his fellow musicians as they watch him play rock's easiest riff
(Whole Lotta Love) is priceless. The scenes in his room as he plays tunes on old 45s are excellent. When you see Jimmy Page doing a damn
good air guitar to Rumble, you know you have stumbled on something special.
This is a fascinating release, if not altogether unique. Aficionados of each musician will already be au fait with a lot of the back stories played
out. What makes it work is the continued return of the focus back to the instrument - the real reason for the film. Where It Might Get Loud
does disappoint is that the sessions with all three together just don't go deep enough, as if the conversation is sometimes superficial. There is
no probing or brain-picking, only amiable conversation and some light insights. The extras are sparse, too - I am sure that there must be a lot
of interesting stuff on the cutting-room floor - but that's a minor gripe about a quite brilliant documentary.