It Might Get Loud
Coolidge Corner Theatre
8 September 2009
The premise: Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White come together
to discuss guitars, their signature sounds, songwriting, and the
creative process. Will it provide deep technical insight into the
guitar mastery of these legends or will it, as White glibly
predicts, simply end in a fistfight? Neither, as Davis
Guggenheim’s newest documentary turns out, but the film is a
truly enjoyable, sometimes educational, and satisfyingly tuneful
The three characters are fascinating people. Page and White, in
particular, impress with the surprising depth and breadth of their
musical tastes. Watching their eyes as they listen to their
favorite songs is telling. White earns bonus points in the
Scottosphere for using equipment that looks like it came entirely
from Michigan yard sales. Page earns smiles from the whole theatre
when he breaks out into air guitar in his living room. There is a
lovely counterpoint between the artists’ musical styles: new
and stock footage of Page’s fancy Zeppelin fingerwork is
captivating. But then a smiling Edge demonstrates how simple his
legendary guitar riffs are by switching out his massive effects
system, revealing just a handful of repeated notes. Jack White
denounces over-reliance on technology by constructing and playing a
one-string electric guitar out of trash, wire, nails and hammer.
Then the three learn from each other and jam together.
The mediocre digital projection at The Coolidge drove me crazy
for the first few minutes, but (uncharacteristically) the movie
soon drew me in to the point where I forgot about it. Guggenheim
capably weaves location shots, interviews, archival footage,
concert films, and dozens of toe-tapping songs into the story of
the meeting. This movie is imperfect, but watching and listening to
these guys is hypnotic. See it!
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
21 May 2009
What is industrial design? How do inanimate objects invoke emotional responses? What makes good design? Do we really need more things? What about the environment?
In interviews with a star-studded cast of designers (including the legendary Dieter Rams and the elusive Jonathan Ive), this film attempts to address those questions. Does it have a clear message? Not so much. In the post-screening Q&A session at the Boston premiere, director Gary Hustwit acknowledged that his goal was to raise as many questions as he answers—this is a film for thinking people. As with his previous documentary, Helvetica, the propulsive force of Objectified is the passion of the designers. This energy, woven together with superbly shot B-roll footage and a pleasantly unusual electronic and indie rock soundtrack, makes a remarkable and enjoyable film.
Hustwit was completely at ease on stage. His answers to questions were witty and well-considered, but I most appreciated learning the secret of his interview technique: his enthusiasm for the subject closely matches that of his interviewees. I can’t wait for the unveiling of the still-secret third film of his “design trilogy.” Until then: go watch Objectified!
You probably know the tale by now: on a gray August morning in 1974, a 24-year-old French street performer nonchalantly cris-crossed the space between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center on a high wire nearly 1400 feet above the ground. But why? And how? Man On Wire (now playing at the Kendall Square Cinema) tells the rest of the story.
For this film, director James Marsh assembles
interviews, stock footage, recreations, old home movies, and still photographs
into a delightfully nonlinear narrative. Philippe Petit’s personal recollections
are captivating. The music is haunting and the
visuals are, at times, stunning. But I was completely blown away
by something unexpected: that a documentary could stir so many emotions.
A motley ensemble of characters was necessary to obtain roof access,
deliver the equipment, deploy the lines, tension the cable, and rig the
stabilizers while evading detection by the authorities. Listening to their
tales of innovations, successes, and close brushes with disaster teased so
many memories of hacking at MIT. But, for all the technical
sophistication we enjoyed in school, I realized that our achievements were
so insignificant in the shadow of Petit’s work.
He was seeking to do something beautiful for beauty’s sake. Why walk between the towers?
Because they were there. The Port Authority police sergeant who arrested
Petit describes, in file footage of a news conference, what happened.
And in the course of his explanation, he does something remarkable—he
steps out of the shell of his police officer persona and tells us, with some
bewilderment still in his eyes, how grateful he was to unwittingly become
a part of the story.
See this movie at once.