Friday, September 17, 2010

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is too timid of a film to be a great one. But if it falls well short of its potential, it certainly spies some interesting things on the way down. It Might Get Loud gathers Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge for an epic jam session, which is the kind of thing you can do for shits and giggles when your last name is Guggenheim.

The idea of these three titans of rock together in the same room is enough to send a pleasurable shiver down any music fan’s spine. After all, we are talking about three men who are responsible for some of the loudest rudest most exciting music to surface in the mainstream. So why is it then that the movie feels so, diligently well… polite.

It Might Get Loud doesn’t just avoid conflict, it makes mind boggling contortionist like movements to do so. Just as an example, The Edge is a guitarist who incorporates more effects work and distortion into his playing then just about anyone else. We cut from to a shot of The Edge demonstrating his techniques and vast array of equipment to one of Jack White, ranting (as Jack White is want to do) about how technology is the devil and destroys music. Now, perhaps as these two diametrically opposed players are about to be in the same room, it would not be too much to hope that they will discuss their opposing view points. They never do. Not even mentioned.

Now look, I’m not expecting Jack White to suddenly hit The Edge with a chair, or for The Edge to start reading choice excerpts of “Hammer Of The God’s” to Page in a mocking tone. But some acknowledgement, let alone discussion of their differing philosophies, might have made the movie, well interesting. While the joint interview is something of a bust (Not entirely, I mean sometimes interesting things happen by accident, its just the probabilistic result of putting these three in the same room) the film fairs much better in its portrait of the three musician’s as individuals.

Intercut with the group interview, are profile pieces which allow the musicians to tell their stories in their own words, and end up feeling as personal as the group interview feels aloof. Page’s gives a moving telling of his journey from bored and rich session musician to Rock God. The Edge anchor’s U2’s music in the heart of the Irish Troubles, reconnecting the music of U2 with its soul, which can often get lost in all the messianic posturing of Bono, and bombast of the group as a whole. And Jack White gets the opportunity to spin an unbelievable amount of blarney. White is as good at self mythologizing as he is at playing music, if not better. And he’s damn good at playing music. At the end, the differences in style, era, and philosophy, mean the three principles of It Might Get Loud, can do little other then stare politely at one another. As a summit it fails. But as an intimate look behind the personas, it succeeds much better then expected.


Stephen Losey said...

I enjoyed It Might Get Loud more than it seems you did, but I can't quibble with your critiques. The solo sections are much more interesting than the group discussions. I particularly liked Jimmy Page, in his dad jeans, putting on Link Wray's "Rumble," and giggling like a fool. That moment beautifully deconstructed four decades of self-mythologizing Rock God bullshit, and exposed Jimmy Page for the music dork he is at heart. It said a lot about how music can inspire someone, even after decades.

I think including the Edge was a mistake. As you said, they never really do anything to explore the radical differences in musical philosophy and style between him and White. And when the three musicians start playing, there's a notable lack of chemistry and compatibility between the Edge and the other two. It's, "One of these things is not like the other," and it holds back the chances to make some really outstanding, one of a kind music.

Bryce Wilson said...

I kind of have to disagree. I think the reason The Edge is on here, is because he's one of the few guitar players who has a style that really is all his own. Nobody plays for him.

And I think in his solo segments he came off as an engaging presence. I think it was the weakness of the interviewer that they weren't able to prod some more interesting exchanges from the two.

I do want you to know that coffee nearly came out of my nose in reference to Page's "Dad Jeans"