Saturday, September 6, 2008

TIFF 2008 reviews: It Might Get Loud

Next up was another of my fallback screening picks, and I’m still baffled as to how I managed to snag a ticket for what had to be one of the packed houses at the festival, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary It Might Get Loud. The concept is simple: three major rock guitarists, each from a different musical generation, having a creative summit on camera, crosscut with location shooting of their workspaces and vintage footage of The Early Years. Basic stuff, except that the three stars are Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. In all my years of the festival, I’ve never seen an audience so primed and jazzed by the presence of stars…you can have your Clooneys and Pitts, I have a hard time believing either of them have received such a split-the-sky thundering standing O the way the former Led Zeppelin axeman got by taking one step into the Ryerson auditorium.

As for the movie itself, It Might Get Loud is one of the great rock documentaries and a guitar nerd’s wet dream. The vintage footage of a teenage Page’s early TV appearances in pre-Yardbirds combos is reason enough to see the movie. However, these numbers also prompted some of the more annoying audience call-outs; the crowd had more than its share of paunchy longhaired ex-hippies, already primed to cheer every time Page’s name was even mentioned onscreen for the first half hour, and the hoot of “You’ve come a long way, Jimmy!” when the scratchy BBC footage played was just embarrassing.

The whole evening turned into kind of a blur for me. It’s easy to get lost in the riffage as your brain tries to process concepts like the three stars all jamming on the “I Will Follow” intro riff and turning a two chord repeating figure into a heavenly paean. So I’m left with random thoughts:
· The Edge deserves a lot better than to be saddled with that obnoxious goof as a lead singer. The U2 footage reaffirms my impression of Bono as a dingbat who’s probably always composing articles about himself in his head (“’Politicians are a funny breed,’ he mused, settling back in the limo on the way to the airport…yeah, that’s what he’ll write.”) In fact, one of the Edge’s big laugh lines happens when I’m pretty sure he’s doing an impression of Bono’s portentiousness.
· Jack White is a bundle of contradictions for me. On one hand he seems to let himself be defined by his shtick, be that the colour coordinated wardrobe or his ongoing claim that Meg is his sister (is that one of those ironic things, that by repeating the trope five years after it’s been revealed as false, it becomes funny again?), an impression backed up by the Raconteurs footage in which, stripped of such irrelevancies, he seems to put on a better show. On the other hand, he’s a fucking great guitarist and his love of the blues seems utterly genuine and not at all like white boy slumming.
· Jimmy Page is the epitome of cool. I’m not the biggest Zep fan—in fact, if I never hear “Stairway” again it’ll be far too soon—but Page just eats up the lens with charisma.

Anyway, it was a pretty magical night. I was in the third row, so my proximity to rock royalty was as good as it’s ever been, even including Lou Reed at last year’s fest. I think I’ve got to go practice now. (****)

No comments: