Filmmaker Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) chooses top guitarists from three stages in rock history--Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White--and talks to about their childhoods and their love affairs with their guitars. It's like three mini-docs as we meet each man, learn about their first musical experiences and discover how each one's personal interests have fed into their specific style.
Then he gathers all three in a room and lets them talk, compare notes, learn from each other and jam together.
The film is assembled like a narrative doc, even though there's not actually a story. Effectively using linking animation, Guggenheim adds some wonderfully surreal touches, such as the way White makes a guitar out of found bits and pieces in a farmyard and then is followed around by a younger version of himself. It's fascinating to see into the minds and gifts of these three iconic men. As The Edge says, "The guitar is my voice." And indeed, each one has a very distinct sound that couldn't be anyone else's.
Technically the film is utterly beautiful, with lush cinematography (by Guillermo Navarro and Erich Roland) and slick, telling editing (by Greg Finton). This is assembled in a way that's witty and lively, playfully echoing the three big personalities at the centre of the film and really indulging in the sounds and textures of the music, from The Edge's technological innovations to White's bluesy, unprocessed sound to Page's ethereal purity of tone, which he calls "whisper and thunder".
Along the way, the film traces its way through rock history, from Page's involvement with 1960s British skiffle bands to White's experimental recordings. There's a fantastic wealth of historical footage here, including terrific footage of Led Zeppelin, U2 and the White Stripes, as well as rare recordings of the people who inspired them. And along the way, Guggenheim really captures their passion, humour and joy. In the end the film feels a bit thin, but it's so packed with great music and wonderfully revealing stories that we can't help but walk out smiling.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 27th August 2009
Box Office USA: $1.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.9M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 87 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Producer: Peter Afterman, Lesley Chilcott, Davis Guggenheim, Thomas Tull
Also starring: Davis Guggenheim
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