IT MIGHT GET LOUD
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Stars: The Edge, Jimmy Page, Jack White
Director/editor Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) had a simple but brilliant idea: Assemble three iconic guitarists from three different generations, put them in a room with their instruments and see the creative sparks fly. And the triumvirate he brings us is quite distinctive: 65 year-old Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page, U2’s 48 year-old six-string sound sculptor The Edge and 34 year-old blues wailer Jack White, leader of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Meeting in a studio warehouse, the three exchange ideas and swap licks in an effort to find common ground, and perhaps steal a few tricks from each other.
While that sounds like either a recipe for aural excitement or boredom, this set-up is not the only focus of the film. In fact, a majority of this documentary finds Guggenheim trailing each guitarist individually as they discuss their personal histories, influences and how their groups helped them to evolve. Page takes us through Headley Grange, the English mansion where Led Zeppelin IV was recorded, regaling us with stories from that supergroup’s history. The Edge allows us into his rehearsal and recording space in Dublin to see how he experiments with effects and shapes his sound. Behind a piano or guitar, White teaches a nine year-old boy (meant to represent him as a child) about injecting attitude and emotion into playing the blues. They take us into their homes, to childhood haunts and to places that were significant in their early years, and we get to view precious footage from their teen days. (A teenage Page in a skiffle duo is quite fun.)
Intercut throughout all of this material is the meeting of musical minds that the film promises at the outset. When the six-string slingers convene to discuss their love affairs with the guitar, it is clear why Guggenheim assembled them, beyond their obvious cultural status. Page is the consummate, skilled blues-rock player, intuitively able to glide between distorted chords and graceful melodies. The Edge is a smooth, technologically-enhanced “sonic architect” (as Page says) who likes to dream up new sounds for different songs. And the earthy White likes to fight with his guitar, letting rip with searing leads and raucous riffs with wild abandon.
It is evident when the players collectively take turns with each other’s songs that they can teach each other new tricks. However, Page, whose style lies between the polar opposites of his compatriots here, is clearly the virtuoso and a sage teacher. Near the film’s end, as they all jam on Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying,” White’s characteristically ragged playing becomes more focused and refined, while The Edge’s normally fluid, ethereal style gets grittier. This moment is humorously contrasted afterward by an acoustic rendition of The Band’s “The Weight”. While they work out vocal harmonies, Page honestly and modestly admits that he can’t sing. Even rock gods have their Achilles heel.
Earnest and revelatory moments like those just mentioned are what make one wish that more time was given to the trio’s bonding rather than their individual histories. While it is important to see where they came from and how that influenced their playing, it might have been nice if they shared their stories with one another to see what they might have gleaned from such intimate insights. It seems like there was a missed opportunity there. Even so, getting an inside look at these three players’ musical passions and methods is priceless in itself.
It Might Get Loud is a fun, rip-roaring trip into the lives of its three axemen that will certainly leave a musical imprint on your psyche. If for some reason you are not a fan of any or all of these artists, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to go out and buy some of their music once you leave the theater.