SXSW FILM 2010
By Dirk Sonniksen | March 11, 2010
Director: Emmett Malloy
Featuring: Jack White, Meg White
The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights follows Jack and Meg through the ten provinces of Canada, playing just about every venue imaginable. While the color-coordinated duo from Detroit play a number of typical venues, the film frequently finds them jamming with the locals in a bowling alley, pool hall, on a boat, in front of a flour mill, and on a bus in Winnipeg, providing a crowd-pleasing cover of “The Wheels on the Bus.” The White and White team seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, placing a taste for adventure above the need to be rock stars.
Under Great White Northern Lights is satisfying because it doesn’t go too deep into aimless conversations with the band, but instead focuses on the music, with excellent live footage that continues to hammer home the raw power that has made The White Stripes a power to be reckoned with. There are certainly poignant moments, with Jack and Meg discussing the idea behind the band, the apparent purposeful colors used from the outset, and their aversion to set lists. But overall, Malloy lets the music speak for the band.
What is most interesting to me about this documentary is that Jack White seems very different from the Jack White featured in It Might Get Loud. The serious nature of White in It Might Get Loud could be attributed to his being a bit starstruck by The Edge and Jimmy Page, or perhaps the subject matter required a more serious approach. Whatever the reason, White seems more amiable in this film, joking with Meg and the locals he meets as they travel the wintery provinces of Canada. Meg does little talking, but that is explained in the film, and I won’t ruin for you.
Under Great White Northern Lights will be a joy for any White Stripes fan, and intriguing for any musician interested in White’s prowess with the guitar. If you’re into Meg, you won’t be disappointed either, as the film gives more or less equal time to both. The film shows the two at the top of their game, and Malloy proves again to be a confident and able filmmaker of the music documentary, providing an appealing glimpse of a band that has become a staple of modern music.