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Toronto: "It Might Get Loud" turns it down

September 8, 2008 | 10:51 am

Most people think of "An Inconvenient Truth" as "the Al Gore movie," but that of course is not entirely the case. It was directed by David Guggenhiem, who has a new film here at Toronto called "It Might Get Loud." Ostensibly some sort of exploration of creativity and guitar (or something like that), it's basically just an excuse to throw Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, the Edge from U2 and Jack White from the White Stripes and the Raconteurs all on screen together.

If there is meant to be some sort of through line to the film, it does not hold, and so while there are certainly plenty of moments that make the film worthwhile, it simply doesn't add up to more. Guggenheim has chosen to shoot the film in a sort of epic portraiture style reminiscent of the photography of Annie Leibovitz, but that only serves to highlight the stunted strangeness of the situations, and make the film seem somehow phony even as the participants are trying to explain themselves honestly. The scenes of the three musicians together on a Los Angeles sound stage are especially off-balance, as none of the trio seems to want to show up the others, while likewise still wanting to hold their own. Only a three-way version of Led Zep's "In My Time Of Dying" with all of them on slide guitar, comes off as fresh and genuine.

It's tough perhaps to pick a winner with who presents himself the best. But it is clear who comes off the worst. That would be the Edge, who often seems pompous and self-serious. Much is made of the Edge's mastery of guitar effects, and his huge racks of gizmos and foot pedals are frequently shown, but not much effort is made to explain what does what. A few times the Edge will play something with effects and then without, and the differences are remarkable, but some explanation of how the sounds are built up layer by layer would have been insightful. Perhaps Guggenheim, in wanting to keep the film accessible for a general audience, shied away from anything to deeply wonky.

Similar to the recent trend of "famous person talking to famous person" like the Sundance Channel's "Iconoclasts" show of the Gwyneth Paltrow-Mario Batali television series, there is a lack of deeper inquiry here that keeps the film from taking off. That said, no self-respecting music nerd would not want to see the room where Jimmy Page stores his record collection or find delight in seeing him dig out a 45 of Link Wray's "Rumble" and then strum air guitar with a huge grin on his face. The moment is the real highlight of the film, and also encapsulates the kind of off-handed insight that "It Might Get Loud" could use more of.

-- Mark Olsen