It Might Get Loud

Nenad Georgievski By

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The Edge, Jimmy Page, Jack White

It Might Get Loud

Sony Pictures Classics


In the hands of the right people, musical instruments become more than just objects for producing sounds. They become cultural icons symbolizing eras and styles in music. There is no other instrument in this modern age that has been so widely used as the guitar. Even the computer stands in its shadow. The guitar is the instrument of damnation and salvation, it is a passkey to heaven and hell. Legend has it that blulesman Robert Johnson even sold his soul, so he could play the guitar the way he did. It is very hard to picture today's music without the sound of this instrument. It is the definitive rock instrument. Used by some of the biggest bands in the world, the power of the guitar seems to know no bounds. You cannot imagine the blues, rock'n'roll or modern rock developing and functioning without it. If it wasn't for the guitar, there would definitely not be rock or popular music as we know it.

It Might Get Loud is a documentary by Davis Guggenheim about the electric guitar, but with a twist. This seminal instrument is seen from the point of view of three significant musicians in music industry: Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2 and Jack White of White Stripes. Guggenheim is an Oscar- winning director, known for environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, where he portrayed Al Gore´s crusade against global warming.

What is interesting about Guggenheim's approach is that he took a singular path and brought together his protagonists for a meeting of spirits. Separately as well as through joint conversations, the film traces their history and their influences with the guitar, and captures the eras when certain things happened. What Guggenheim gives most emphasis to are the players' striking stylistic differences. Not only do they come from different generations, but their personalities and approaches to guitar playing are also quite different. This encounter and the conversations they have is the perfect backdrop to show what makes these people unique and why are they beloved by so many people.

Jimmy Page is definitely the archetypal rock guitar god. Actually, it was his generation of guitar players that helped build that image. Images of Page and Zeppelin singer Robert Plant giving it their all are among the most iconic in rock. Page is truly a guitar shaman, who emerged as a formidable musician and producer. One of the strengths of the mighty Zeppelin was its real ability to draw from a wide palette of musical influences and sounds, such as blues, folk music, Eastern music and electronica.

The Edge came from a different, punk and post-punk era, where simplicity was the starting point. Page named him a "sonic architect" while journalist Neil McCormick named him the "effects master"—the best descriptions of what he has been doing for the past 30 years. The Edge has always been the total opposite of an archetypal guitar god. His sonic explorations have stretched what his instrument can do, most of the time making it sound like anything but a guitar. It's a style that stresses mood over light-speed pyrotechnics.

The work of Zeppelin and U2 speaks volumes, and probably volumes of books and films are necessary to perceive their work and legacy. But most of all it is a result of the interplay of musical personalities within their respective bands. This may be more the case with Edge and less with Page, but their guitar playing was heavily influenced by the musical abilities of their bands' comrades. That is why U2 and Led Zeppelin are, or were, bands in the real sense of the word.

The choice of Jack White is better than Noel Gallagher as a representative of today's younger generation of guitar players. The music of White Stripes (and the Raconteurs) sounds like a raw, garage, lo-fi take on blues and early rock'n'roll. It is fierce and dirty, thus making the White Stripes perhaps the greatest rock act of its generation.

It is especially great to listen to the three guitarists' approaches to their instrument and to music making. Some of the most memorable moments are of them jamming together. Each player introduces some of the tunes associated with their bands. One such particular moment is when Page plays "Whole Lotta Love,"among the most classic guitar riffs. The smiles and smirks on the others' faces says it all. Other songs that they take a hand at are "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes, "I Will Follow" by U2, "In My Time of Dying" by Zeppelin and "The Weight" by the Band.

It Might Get Loud is a remarkable journey through the past of three important musical figures, with glimpses of the possible future. As a history of the electric guitar, the film is far from a runaway success, as it doesn't touch much on the backstory. But it does give a glimpse of the instrument's endless possibilities in the hands of talented people. For anyone interested in the history of the guitar, Alan Yentob's documentary Imagine: History of the Guitar is the better choice. It Might Get Loud is, however, an impressively directed documentary, telling compelling stories by guitarists who have enriched modern music.

Production Notes: 98 minutes. Extras: commentary track with Guggenheim and producers Lesley Chilcott and Thomas Tull, featuring the Toronto Film Festival press conference and additional performance and interview footage.



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