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 journey nonetheless.

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!