Porn. Porn for guitarists.
That’s the easy way to sum up It Might Get Loud, a documentary about three famous musicians and their weapons of choice. Right from the start when the camera lovingly caresses the bodies of the instruments while music blares, you know you’re in for some true rock and roll erotica.
The film focuses on three generations of guitarists- Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, The Edge from U2, and Jack White from The White Stripes. We learn about what led them to pick up the axe, and also join them as they all meet for a jam session in an incredible bit of film.
Choosing these three musicians was pure genius, as each one comes at the guitar in a very different way. Jimmy Page is the closest thing to a living legend we have in rock and roll today, an innovator whose style still influences guitarists today. He’s a true master of his craft- his fingers still flow effortlessly over the frets, plucking out beautiful music without even seeming to try. The Edge spends his time recording running back and forth to his laptop to mess with his sounds, because he’s as much of a programmer as he is a guitarist. He struggles to get the sound to come out as he imagines it in his head, and spends just as much time choosing effects as he does writing his licks. Jack White likes to fight his guitar, fight it physically and make it submit to him. Music’s a battle for the man and he doesn’t like to have an easy time of things, as evidenced by his many blood-stained and warped guitars.
All three have very different backstories and the film brings you up to speed on each one. If you’re a fan you might be hearing the same stories you’ve heard told hundreds of times before, like how Zepplin recorded IV at Headley Grange, getting those absolutely booming sounds from Bonham’s drums; but the film is smart in that it never stays in one place too long, actually taking us to these famous locations where the guitarists got their start. It jumps around quite a bit in its timeline as well, showing us the early days (and music) of the guitarists as they honed their craft and taking us all the way to them playing in front of gigantic crowds today, entertaining thousands.
True to the title, the soundtrack to this movie absolutely pumps. Make sure to see it in a theater with great surround sound, because you’re going to be banging your head throughout the whole film. I don’t believe there’s a second when there isn’t music playing, and one of the greatest things about it is that it uses each musician’s own music to tell their story. What more could you need to show off the variety of the music, the many different feelings it can evoke? They’re used perfectly to set the mood of the scene and keep things pretty lively throughout to boot. There’s just nothing like hearing When the Levee Breaks destroy the air around you.
The film’s biggest fault though is that it’s not more accessible. If you have no interest in guitars or rock music you will get absolutely nothing out of it. It’s not trying to make fans out of people, it just is what it is. There’s a way to take people and make them appreciate the music and the meaning behind it but the film doesn’t seem to quite hit that spot. It’s perhaps too scattershot and tries to tackle too many subjects, too many themes when really any one of the guitarists would made for an amazing documentary subject by himself.
Watching all three sit around and talk isn’t too exciting, but when they finally pick up their guitars and start jamming, teaching each other their own songs- well, it’s just magic. You see The Edge and Jack White just staring at Page playing in a mixture of pure admiration and joy, and understand exactly what they’re feeling. It’s a huge moment in musical history that’s been captured on film, but there’s just not enough footage of the meet shown. (Make sure to stay to the end of the credits, however.)
Then there are moments where you’re just amazed at what you’re seeing, like when Jimmy Page takes the crew to his home. He puts on a few records from his personal collection and starts playing air guitar to one of his biggest influences, Link Wray’s Rumble. It’s just an incredible moment, this guitar God showing that he’s as much of a fan of the music as anyone else.
It’s the kind of movie that will remind you why you love the music in the first place, and if you’re a musician yourself it will make you want to run home and start writing. A flawed though truly entertaining piece of work that will doubtlessly be worth tracking down for any rock fan.
It Might Get Loud hits theaters in NYC and LA on August 14th and will roll out in the weeks to come. Check the official site for dates and times.