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It Might Get Loud: Guitar porn in theaters now

You know you've seen them before: the guy in leather pants; the lip distortion in mid-solo; the enigmatic one who never speaks up; the crazy-unpredictable, flamboyant kid who makes you nervous. These are the artists who graced our bedroom walls. The demi-gods we listened to on the radio or even longed to be. It is this mind set that director David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) banked on when embarking upon the guitar-gastic line-up of Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White on the big screen, all starring in It Might Get Loud.

Like many other people (including Guggenheim himself), I'm not a fan of your standard "Rock-Doc": cataloging a tour, a filmed live show or watching full songs at a time, especially in an environment completely different from the one it was shot in. What sets this film apart from its peers is the attention to detail paid the performers themselves. What holds this documentary together, which at times feels like a contrived concept, is its focus on what these guitarists from three distinct generations have in common as artists.

What is deceiving is how the film is sold as this creative summit of, arguably, the world's greatest guitarists. Sure they're gathered in the largest soundstage in LA and while it bookends the story and holds it together, it's certainly not the film's theme. It dives headlong into the past of each of these virtuosos, examining each of their pasts from Dublin, to Detroit, to London and all points between, It Might Get Loud gets to the heart of these men--digs out the names of their first guitars, how they came to be in a band, how they learned the instrument, what their favorite songs are and all the small details you don't get from the liner notes, a box-set or VH1. This is the down and dirty.

The story is chock full of each musician's song catalog (it's a rare moment that music isn't playing during the 97 minute running time), but it also contains footage the average Zeppelin fan has never seen, of Page playing in a skiffle band on British TV as a teenager; Edge also playing British TV with U2 in '79 or '80; White releasing a 7" record while in a band called "The Upholsterers." Additionally, Guggenheim visits important milestone locations for each artist and interviews them individually in their own space and amongst the physical remnants of these key locations in their past.

There is a lot to sort through and at times the film moves at a frenetic pace, yet then pauses just as quickly. Taking few moments to watch Page react to the 45 record that made him want to learn the guitar. Watching the creative genius of White as he jots down a new song on cue, then performs and records it in mere minutes. The complex and silent insight of how the Edge emotes a completely different sound from the other two. Yes, the fact the Page still appears to have sex with his Les Paul and still does that thing with his lips is a tad bit disturbing, but we also know he can't turn it off... it's who he is, even if he's reached the age of 65.

It is this that makes the whole greater than its parts: That they understand why they make music and why it moves them, not just that it pays them well. That you don't have to a genius or a classically training musician to create beautiful music, but you can't become the Beatles simply by getting a certain effects box, either. The film fully fleshes out the desire to speak to the world in distorted notes and reverb. It lingers on what we as a society should appreciate in art and that these musicians exhibit what we should be supporting: Character, passion, originality, respect.

While I did walk out of this film feeling pleasantly violated by the abundance 3-men-on-6-string-action, it also would have been nice to spend more time with the three of them casually hamming it up and enjoying each other's company.  While it was great to watch them play a few songs together and watch the other two melt as Page broke into "Whole Lotta Love," I wanted to see more of it, plus more about their careers, not just their beginnings and why they are who they are.  
If nothing else, it's a great, heavy dose of why we believe in guitar-gods and the reason they still play rock and roll.

IT MIGHT GET LOUD is playing at the Lagoon Theatre in Minneapolis. Visit the Lagoon's website for showtimes and tickets.