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Got the World on Six Strings

It Might Get Loud (2009)

Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics

One could argue that in his latest film, Davis Guggenheim — the Academy Award-winning documentarian behind “An Inconvenient Truth” — has outdone the impressive accomplishment of imbuing an Al Gore slideshow with riveting dramatic heft. For “It Might Get Loud,” he’s assembled Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, three musicians who have never been especially prone to talking about themselves or their craft, and gotten them to candidly face his cameras and do just that.

How he managed that is for him to say, but his labor has resulted in a movie that’s a gift for anyone who’s ever been a fan of Led Zeppelin, U2, The White Stripes or music in general. In following the men into their homes, recording studios and on sojourns to personal landmarks, always framing his exploration of their artistry through the stories of their relationships with the electric guitar, he’s fulfilled one of the great challenges facing any storyteller.

That's because his work enriches the established understanding of these three iconic figures, revealing them to be both traditionalists and innovators, and provides a new context for appreciating their indelible contributions to the rich tapestry of rock ‘n’ roll. In utilizing every tool at his disposal to draw out the central concept of the guitar as a metaphor for the guitarist’s soul, he’s found a unique kinship with men who best express their thoughts and feelings with the instruments in their hands.

The successful documentarian understands that his role fluctuates depending on scenes and circumstances. At times, Mr. Guggenheim cajoles the men to give him more, even asking Mr. White to write a song on camera. When he gets the men together at a soundstage for the extended conversation that serves as the picture’s centerpiece, he wisely steps back and lets their interactions dictate the flow. When the first notes of their impromptu cover of “The Weight” begin over the end credits, rapture sets in.


Opens on Aug. 14 in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim; directors of photography, Erich Roland and Guillermo Navarro; produced by Thomas Tull, Mr. Guggenheim, Lesley Chilcott and Peter Afterman; released by Sony Pictures Classics. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. This film is rated PG.


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