Saturday, September 06, 2008

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is a window into the musical talents of three exceptional musicians; Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin; The Edge from U2; and Jack White of The White Stripes. This latest documentary from Davis Guggenheim, director of the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, is less a history of the electric guitar and more a look at these three personalities and their relationship to both the guitar and music itself.

The film jumps between the three musicians as they talk about how they started out, their first guitars, their inspirations, and the evolution of their sound. It all culminates in a couple of amazing jam sessions with all three playing off of one another.

We see Jack White's love of blues and how it shaped his direction, The Edge's wealth of equipment that gives his music his own unique sound, Jimmy Page's evolution throughout the years from skiffle to Zeppelin, and much, much more.

After watching this film you get an appreciation for the sheer artistry and skill of all three, and how they can coax the most amazing sounds from their instruments. It Might Get Loud is a must-see for any fans, anyone who plays the guitar, or even anyone who just likes music.

Some quick notes on the screening:

  • The house seemed to be primarily filled with Zeppelin fans, based on the reaction to Page when he appeared or talked.
  • Guggenheim thanked his wife, the actress Elisabeth Shue, who was also in the audience.
  • I'm not sure the sound system completely works at Ryerson; for both this film, and for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, it was difficult to hear dialogue in scenes with a lot of background music (which, unfortunately, happens a lot in both films).

Guggenheim, producers Thomas Tull and Lesley Chilcott, Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White did a Q&A after the film:

  • When The Edge was asked what he took away from watching the film, he joked that he regrets his choice of clothing. This was the first time he had seen the film in its entirety. He found it inspiring to watch White and Page, and it made him want to go practise.
  • Jack White responded to the same question by joking that he thought it was great to find out the other guys were in bands too, and that he looked forward to hearing their albums someday. :-)
  • Guggenheim commented on how the choice of subjects for the film was a discussion between him, Tull, and Chilcott, and that Page, The Edge, and White were their first choices. Guggenheim continued on how it was more about chemistry than about history, being accurate or being thorough; it was more about the three of them together.
  • Tull said it was a bit surreal for him grow up poor and then be on stage with these three men. He runs a studio (Legendary Pictures), but plays the guitar and had been passionate about it for a long time. He had never seen anything that captured the essence about what makes someone pick up an instrument. He wanted to know what it was about the guitar in particular that all around the world symbolizes blues and rock.
  • TIFF programmer Thom Powers asked if they'd put together an all-star group, to which The Edge replied someone should shoot them if that ever happens.
  • On the process of making the documentary, Page commented that when all three of them were brought to LA for the 'summit' segment of the film, Guggenheim kept them all apart in separate trailers, so there was no conferring beforehand, and they had to pull it all together on the spot in front of the cameras.
  • White said that initially it seemed that Guggenheim didn't know exactly what kind of film he wanted to make; White feels that when people come in with specific goals about what they want to make, it might not work out, but if they say they want a little bit of this, a little bit of that, it's better.
  • He thought it was great to take something mechanical that three (or even millions of) people have a different take on; why this instrument rather than the sitar or clarinet or something else; that's what interested him.
  • Leslie Chilcott talked about how she couldn't believe how it all came together so well. They met first with Page and his management, and were on pins and needles until they said yes. Then they went after The Edge and Jack White. The hardest part was trying to get three rock stars available on the same day. She thought Al Gore's schedule was ridiculous, but this was much harder.
  • When White was asked if The Edge's 'high-end' approach appealed to him, i.e. The Edge has more pedals than him, The Edge cut in that he's a lot older than White. He continued that there are a lot of things you can do creatively with unlimited means and opportunity. He has done projects that were more limited or constricting to get more creatively out of limited means so he could learn more.
  • The Edge also found it interesting to see how many pieces of equipment they all had in common, because in the end all they are looking for is a great guitar sound; they don't care how they get it, they just want that sound.
  • Page said while filming they shouldn't talk about this stuff, because they'll see a lot less of it as someone else will buy it.
  • Final question was what guitar they would take if they were stranded on a desert island: White would take Page's guitars, Page would take White's customized guitar, and The Edge would take his Explorer.


Very nice write-up! Thanks for doing this.

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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