Been away for awhile. I’m sure many of you were weeping and gnashing your teeth, and for that I am sorry.
Appropriately enough, today I’m going to be writing about a film I really came upon late in the game: It Might Get Loud. I never was able to see it in theaters, and it was low on the Netflix priority list until this past weekend.
This is really just a rough gathering of thoughts from a guitarist’s perspective upon watching a documentary specifically about the art of playing the guitar, featuring some of its most prominent champions. I haven’t read too many reviews of this from people who actually play, so I figured I’d throw my proverbial two cents in.
I have to say, after finally viewing the film I was underwhelmed. And I have to imagine that’s what most people would feel. It seems that director Davis Guggenheim never quite figured out who exactly this documentary was aimed at. Was it aimed at the neophyte, someone who has never touched a guitar in their life, yet loves the music? Was it aimed at hardcore guitar lovers and fetishists? Fans of either Led Zeppelin, U2 or The White Stripes? Some middling combination of all of these?
It certainly seems that he aimed to please all, and as is often the case, didn’t really fully satisfy anyone. I know the hardcore guitarist/music fan in me wasn’t satisfied at all. However, the film did do a damn good job at working up my appetite. I promptly ran upstairs and plugged in my precious Les Paul for a few hours after finishing this.
The documentary started out interestingly enough, and for the first 30 minutes or so I was very pleased. However much I may dislike U2 these days, there’s no denying their iconic presence and The Edge’s role in shaping that. I’m also quite the stompbox/effects junkie, so I loved seeing an inside look at his writing space as well as his approach to tackling heavily effects driven riffs.
I love Jack White and The White Stripes with about the same intensity as I am indifferent with U2. The guitar geek in me was tickled silly watching him build that very crude yet wicked sounding guitar out of some simple objects on his porch. White offered perhaps the most interesting take on his process, speaking about how difficult he likes to keep things. And you can certainly feel that energy in his music.
And then… there’s Jimmy Page. This guy towers over the other two participants, almost to the point of awkwardness. The more time the film spent with Page, the more I started to feel disappointed when I was whisked back to White or The Edge (god, I’m sick of typing that moniker already).
Hands down my favorite moments in the film were when the talking stopped, and Page just laid down some of the greatest riffs ever written. There’s something so striking about seeing this old man still grooving, working that guitar over like some sort of musical deity. Page’s facial expressions while playing have always been classic, and they’re more present than ever.
The film continues to hover around and cut in and out of this supposed “meeting of the minds” between the three. It shows the set up, the equipment load in, and little tidbits of the gathering itself. And this brings me to my biggest point of contention with the film, and one that I feel is quite universal.
There’s almost no climax to the whole thing. The film feels like it’s constantly building up to the moment where they’ll really unleash this epic jam between the three. Or hell, at least some in depth conversation. But all we get are tiny snippets. Did it not go all that well? Was the meeting of these three guitar gods (well, two gods and one priest, really) that big of a flop?
I mean, it seems like a lot of trouble to go through getting all of them and their equipment (well, The Edge’s equipment, really) into a building only for them to dick around, play a couple of riffs, exchange a few sentences of theory and call it a day. And I’m sure they did more than that. But apparently, it wasn’t interesting enough to warrant more footage of it. And considering that, I can’t help but think Guggenheim was sitting there thinking, “shit, what now?”
Ultimately, It Might Get Loud just played like one really, really long trailer for a documentary that I’m dying to see. As a guitarist, I could watch footage of Page playing Zeppelin riffs for days on end, but that doesn’t really satisfy the casual viewer. I’m curious to know why this film came out the way it did, because it really feels like a great idea that just came up flat in the execution.