Brandon Blows Out His Speakers Watching It Might Get Loud
by Brandon Lee Tenney
August 13, 2009
If the world was to end tomorrow, tonight I'd want to be with Jack White and his blood-stained guitar. And whether that guitar be hand carved, plastic, or merely a plank, a coke bottle, and a single amped wire -- with Jack White plucking the strings, the world would end and my eyes would be closed. And that's actually how I found myself for much of An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim's latest music documentary, It Might Get Loud -- with my eyes closed. I had to consciously remind myself that what I was seeing before me was at times just as beautiful and illuminating as what I was hearing. And always as impacting.
As a prominently visual medium, cinema generally uses sound to underwrite, expand, and compliment what it is that the audience is seeing. But when one's film is about that very thing, music, it's the visuals that become the compliment. Whether we're in North Carolina with The White Stripes' Jack White of the present, in U2's Edge's studio in Ireland, or Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page's home in England -- Guggenheim filmed these juggernauts of rock 'n' roll to not only express their story, but to elucidate their indefinable creative spark. Page's reserved cool, ever the old master and consummate artist. Edge's technophilic search for that perfect sound. And White's musical masochism. It's Guggenheim's ability to bottle what is, ostensibly, creativity at large that makes this film such a success. It Might Get Loud is a portrait of three artists and a mural of each of their passions.
The film's pace is akin to a great song. Always building. At times wandering through solos of each guitarist's inspiration and weaving chords of experiences where each of the three finds that perfect guitar, their guitar. We move through the lifetimes of Page, Edge, and White and come to know them as people as well as artists -- unplugged as well as mic'ed and amped. Like a chorus, the documentary is centered around the first-time meeting of these musicians in a studio. It builds through discussions of each of their unique sounds and what drove each of them to pursue the electric guitar. The academic concentration on each of their faces as they talk shop, the genuine looks of admiration for each of their approaches. Edge's labyrinthine effects array, Page's smooth, technical genius, and White's bloody struggle. The genesis, pursuit, and capture of Art. It's a clinic of masters, and the camaraderie is truly awesome.
Then they play. And it's loud, as it should be -- as it has to be. And, I assure you, it's okay to close your eyes. Just listen. And starting on August 14th, It Might Get Loud can be seen -- and heard -- in limited release.