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"You hold onto religion, you know, rules, regulations, traditions. I think what God is interested in is people's hearts, and that's hard enough." — Bono

Guitar gods assemble for 'Loud' and intimate documentary


For anyone who has dreamed of rock 'n' roll stardom, blissfully jammed away on Guitar Hero or rocked out at a concert, It Might Get Loud offers a thrilling personal tour of three exceptional electric guitarists' careers that's equally appealing to musicians and rock enthusiasts alike.

Sony Pictures Classics heard this immensely entertaining music docu, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, at last year's Toronto film festival and smartly snapped it up.

With Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) at the helm and the participation of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's the Edge and Jack White of the Raconteurs and the White Stripes, the audience for Loud could rival turnout for a U2 concert tour, auguring a spirited theatrical release as fans raise their lighters for the film's Friday (August 14) release. (The documentary screened stateside in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival.)

Guggenheim centers the film on "The Summit," an unscripted Los Angeles soundstage jam session that brings the three generations of guitarists together for the first time, then branches off with personal profiles of each musician and their individual paths to developing their signature styles.

Although he's the best known among the trio, Page also is the most private, having endured decades of scrutiny as a member of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin. So his openness to the project is all the more remarkable as he invites the filmmakers into his London home to listen to his record collection and film him strumming riffs from "Ramble On" in his studio. A side trip to the country house where the legendary "Stairway to Heaven"-centered Led Zeppelin IV album was recorded prompts Page to pick up his mandolin for an impromptu version of "The Battle of Evermore."

Guggenheim strategically minimizes any recapping of Led Zeppelin's already well-documented history, focusing instead on Page's playfully engaging discussion of his largely self-taught trademark hard-rock guitar techniques, musical influences and career as a young studio musician before joining the Yardbirds.

The Edge literally goes back to the Dublin high school where the U2 quartet formed as teenagers to highlight his musical journey, while a visit to his riverside studio reveals his unique, effects-laden guitar techniques and command of audio technology.

A trip to White's Tennessee home base reveals the origins of his minimalist, roots-oriented rock and blues style as he leads the filmmakers through his development as a respected musician and producer.

These chapterlike interviews are skillfully interwoven with remarkable archival materials and cut together with generous live concert footage featuring U2, Led Zeppelin, the White Stripes and the Raconteurs. The film's highlight by far is "The Summit," when the three musicians gather to swap stories and guitar licks as Guggenheim's seven HD cameras capture stirring moments of creative spontaneity.

While the abundance of musical background and performance clips greatly enriches the film, more detail on the musicians' life stories and formative experiences would have appreciably informed their choice of musical styles.

Conceived by producer and Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull, who recruited Guggenheim to direct, Loud exhibits a level of detailed narrative crafting similar to An Inconvenient Truth, though the film's free-flowing structure, held together by precise and revealing editing, allows this music doc to organically unveil an intimate portrait of artists at work.

© Reuters, 2009.