Monday, March 22, 2010

Under Great White Northern Lights

Now here's a film I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did. I'm not a huge fan of "rockumentaries", save The Beatles' films and another exception. Those are technically fake though, so they don't count! I'm not entirely sure why I don't usually like them, but it may be because very few of my favorite bands have ever made a documentary before, or at least until now. Watching the Metallica rockumentary, Some Kind of Monster, was just painful for me, because here is one of the "baddest" bands in the world, and they are all whining and sucking there thumbs throughout the entire film. Every time someone criticizes someone else, the person has a hissy fit and cries about it for ten minutes. This happened so much that the band actually needed a therapist to console them and put them in time-outs. I swear, that movie had more pointless girly drama in it than Meet the Kardashians. Needless to say, it changed my perspective on the band quite a bit, which I'm sure was their goal, but it wasn't for the better.

So The White Stripes took a shot at their own film, and I was definitely satisfied with the result. The premise is pretty simple: You follow the band on their Canadian tour, only instead of just watching them perform at different venues, they decide to spontaneously play at small, local areas, usually with less than an hour's notice. These areas range from bowling allies to children's birthday parties. The film will cut back and forth between this, a live set, and the occasional backstage interview. Predictably, Jack White does most of the talking. Meg White does talk on occasion, but she is hilariously subtitled whenever she speaks because it is difficult to hear what she is saying. There is a scene where Jack jokingly yells "Speak up! I can never hear what the fuck you are saying!" Meg looks at him, smiles, and doesn't say much in return. Meg might not be loud vocally (although she does sing a very sweet live version of "In the Cold, Cold Night"), but when she plays those drums, damn is she loud.

What makes this film stand out among others is it is a truly a moving work of art; the entire film is shot on an old school black and white 16mm cameras (although it does occasionally switch to color), and is even black and red for a scene (thank God it was only one scene, my eyes would have started to bleed despite how cool it looked). Watching the film, you can really feel the unspoken bond between the two bandmates when they are performing on stage. What makes their stage set-up unique is Jack's microphone stand is facing directly at Meg the entire set; it shows that these two are really connected in heartfelt way. This is proven in the last scene, one that seemingly came out of nowhere: Jack plays a piano version of "White Moon" while Meg quietly sits next to him. Halfway through the eerie, yet beautiful song, she bursts into tears, while Jack continues to play. They embrace when the song ends, and that is the last shot of the film. Exactly why she cries isn't explained, but it can't help but wrench your heart a little bit; it is a very sorrowful moment.

The film doesn't exactly set any bars or standards for future rockumentaries, but it is filled with heart. And what more can a fan of the band ask for, or even just a casual viewer? This film is definitely recommended, even if you aren't a fan of the band. If you aren't, you really are. You just don't know it yet.